The Institute of Paper Chemistry was established in 1929 as a partnership between Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) and the local paper industry.

The Institute for Paper Chemistry was graduate institute for training paper chemists, organized by Lawrence but financed by the paper industry. The Institute had its own Board of Trustees and operated its own budget. Lawrence awarded Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees to graduates of the Institute. The Institute transferred its operations from Appleton to Atlanta, Georgia in 1989, where it currently exists as the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech.

Buildings of the Institute of Paper Chemistry

A brief history of the IPC

1915 - An idea begins

Samuel Plantz, then president of Lawrence University, recommended the creation of a committee within the Board of Trustees to consider adding classes to the curriculum in paper chemistry to be paid for by the paper mills in the area based on a similar program at the University of Maine.

1929 - Founding

Thanks to the work of Henry Wriston, president of Lawrence 1925-1937, the Institute of Paper Chemistry was founded as a partnership between Lawrence College (now Lawrence University) and the paper industry to promote research and innovation in the industry- one which was heavily centered in Appleton. The Lawrentian summarized the goals of the institute from a letter sent to President Herbert Hoover by Wriston:

Dr. Wriston pointed out that the purposes of the Institute are threefold : first, to develop technically trained chemists who will be available for the particular needs of the paper industry; second, to establish a comprehensive library and information service for the advantage of the paper industry; and finally, to promote and carry forward research both for individual corporations and for the group as a whole.

1931 - Campus opens and first graduates

Classes began in the winter of 1929 and the first ten graduates earned their Master's Degrees at Lawrence's commencement ceremony in the spring of 1931. For the first year of operation the IPC had no building, and instead operated out of rented space in Alexander Gym. A building was constructed across the street from the gym and dedicated in the fall of 1931 and a library constructed a year later.

1933 - First PhDs awarded

For the first time in Lawrence history, Doctor of Philosophy degrees were awarded to four students from the Institute of Paper Chemistry.

1946 - Contribution to the war effort

World War II impacted the Institute as it did every industry and school. As paper resources became scarce the IPC engaged in many projects to support the war effort. The most unique of these projects was the design for a house to be constructed of reclaimed waste paper and intended to temporarily house refugees. A house was constructed on campus using the design and stood there until it was dismantled in 1952.


Aerial view of Alexander Gym and Institute of Paper Chemistry campus
Aerial view of Alexander Gym, the Institute of Paper Chemistry campus, and Quonset huts to house students and their families, circa 1946-1955

1958 - Construction boom

In the years after the war the Institute grew rapidly, with the renovation of the original two buildings and construction of three additional academic buildings and eight small apartment buildings to the west of the campus in order to house students and their families.

1969 - Focus on doctoral students

Thanks to a $1,000,000 donation, the largest in the Institute's history, a program was created and new building constructed to put more of a focus on doctoral research and encouraging students to pursue a PhD, with the goal of increasing the student body by a third.

1971 - Environmental research

Stemming from a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, a large focus was place on researching the environmental impacts of the paper production process including the presence of mercury and PCBs in wastewater from production plants.

1980 - Energy consumption

Across the United States, a focus on energy was shifting the research focus to reducing energy consumption in industrial settings. Research at the IPC focused on reducing energy consumption throughout paper production plants.

1989 - Move to Georgia

In order to continue to grow and adapt to the changing field of pulp and paper, the IPC decided to partner with Georgia Institute of Technology and relocate to Atlanta, Georgia. The move also saw a name change to Institute of Paper Science and Technology. It is now named the Renewable Bioproducts Institute.

Timeline of the Institute of Paper Chemistry

This timeline, put together by the Renewable Bioproducts Institute, details the history of the Institute from its inception at Lawrence University to its current iteration at Georgia Tech.