Giants of science

Peering down from the science buildings at the University of Oregon are some of the giants of science, men and women — as well as bugs and fish — who left a lasting mark in the worlds of physics, mathematics, computer science and chemistry.

Hammered copper gargoyles depicting Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and James Clerk Maxwell (and his demon) are joined by Alan Turing and John von Neumann. A gargoyle depicting Thomas Condon, an Irish-born geologist and paleontologist who was the first professor of geology at the University of Oregon, keeps watch over Cascade Hall.

In addition, there are gargoyles that depict a fruit fly and a school of zebrafish, two species important to researchers studying genetics and biology.

(See photo gallery at right.)

The gargoyles were commissioned through the 1 Percent for Art Program. Walla Walla, Wash., sculptor Wayne Chabre created the pieces in 1989 and 1990. Building users chose who they wanted depicted in their gargoyles.

"My work tends to be kind of whimsical," Chabre said in a recent interview. "I wanted to put a little of that into them without making them caricatures."

Gargoyles placed on medieval cathedrals served an architectural function, diverting water away from masonry walls, but were also intended to keep evil spirits away, he said.

"I've always been fascinated by gargoyles," Chabre said. "I hope they do their jobs."