WOW News: Thomas Jefferson’s secret chemistry lab

Campus food truck has adds usual menu item—roasted cricket tacos

While renovating the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, workers found a “chemical hearth” hidden behind the walls.

It turned out to have been part of an early science classroom commissioned by university founder Thomas Jefferson. The room, likely sealed in the mid-1800s, survived a fire in 1895 that destroyed much of the building’s interior.

The hearth was built as a semicircular niche in the north end of the Rotunda’s Lower East Oval Room. Two fireboxes provided heat, underground brick tunnels fed fresh air to fireboxes and workstations, and flues carried away the fumes and smoke. Students worked at five workstations cut into stone countertops. 

Experts say the hearth may be one of the oldest intact examples of chemical education in the country. UVA plans to keep it on permanent display once the building’s renovations are completed next spring.

Crickets on the menu

Soon after the University of Connecticut made the news for a (now former) student’s late-night mac-n-cheese tirade, a campus food truck has added an usual menu item for students hankering for tacos—roasted crickets. Sold for 99 cents in a container at the Food For Thought truck, crickets can be a crunchy taco topping or a standalone snack.

They are advertised by UConn’s dining services as “an organic, GMO-free, earth-friendly source of protein, calcium, iron and amino acids.” An average of two or three students are reportedly ordering them per day.

The crickets are sold by Canada’s Next Millennium Farms, whose mission is to lead a “protein revolution” with their cricket production, according to the company’s website.


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