George LaTour Smith laid the foundation for the study of the sciences at the Maryland State Normal School; the new Science Facility will expand that legacy to support the next generation of TU science students.

The man behind the name of Smith Hall

George LaTour Smith, the first faculty member to specialize in the sciences, was hired by the Maryland State Normal School in 1875 as an assistant professor to teach physics, chemistry and natural history. He became the namesake of Smith Hall, TU’s first science building, constructed in 1965.

Smith, a Cornell graduate, worked with the U.S. Coast Survey to build lighthouses along the Atlantic coast before coming to the MSNS. His background lacked teaching experience, so he spent his nights in the school’s laboratory, studying just as much as the students he taught during the day.

His efforts made him a beloved professor. “Not only was he a truly great instructor, but there was never anyone who found more real joy in teaching,” Minnie Lee Davis, Class of 1877 wrote in 75 Years of Teacher Education.

Outside of teaching, he was superintendent of the Samuel Ready School, a school for orphaned Maryland girls. He was a member of the Botany Club of Baltimore and secretary for the Photographic Society of Baltimore. And he became a member and curator for the Maryland Academy of Sciences, the precursor to the Maryland Science Center.

To read more about Smith, visit

Groundbreaking Education and Research Starts Here

Bring out the shovels. Construction of the new Science Facility – which will be the biggest building on campus —began this fall.

To be built on York Road, between Stephens Hall and the 7800 building, this new building will have 50 teaching laboratories, 30 research labs, 50 classrooms, 10 student lounges and collaborative areas, eight lecture halls, and an outdoor classroom leading to the Glen.

The facility will also include a rain garden for stormwater control, a planetarium, observatory rooftop greenhouse and a museum and vivarium.
The Science Facility will place equal value on teaching and research.

“At TU, undergraduate and graduate students work closely with faculty to explore real question and solve real problems—replacing the ‘cookbook’ labs in which students replicate experiments with known outcomes,” says David Vanko, dean, Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.
In addition, the facility will be a powerful launchpad for new community collaborations—in business, technology and education.

Completion of the $124 million project is scheduled for 2020.

Ginny Cook, editor, Felicity Knox ’94, archives librarian, and the Fisher College contributed to this story.

George LaTour Smith

MAGNIFIED | Smith’s microscope is on permanent display in the archives.