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The Linde Center  /  Our Building  /  History


Linde Historical

Origins and Early Years

The building now housing The Linde Center for Global Environmental Science was originally designed by the Goodhue Associates and constructed in 1932. As the Robinson Laboratory of Astrophysics, under the leadership of the renowned astrophysicist George Ellery Hale, it was the base for the construction of the 200-inch telescope on Palomar Mountain. The roof of the Laboratory holds a 1:10 scale model of Palomar's telescope dome, which was used to test design elements of the Palomar dome and to house a student telescope. The original 1:10 scale model of the Palomar telescope is now housed in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.

The laboratory was constructed as a solar observatory, with a coelostat solar telescope dome and a solar shaft extending from the roof more than 120 feet down into the ground. In the two underground floors of the laboratory were spectrographs for observations of the sun, as well as other laboratories and shops supporting astrophysical observations around Southern California.

For decades, the building was the home of Caltech's astronomers and astrophysicists. In 2009, they moved across California Avenue into the newly constructed Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Linde Laboratory

2010: Becoming the Linde + Robinson Laboratory

The generosity of Ronald and Maxine Linde made it possible to transform the historic building into a contemporary laboratory that retains the original character while setting new standards in energy efficiency and green design, as befits a laboratory for environmental science.

Architects, engineers, and the Center's scientists collaborated closely in devising creative solutions for using the building's historical features to reduce energy consumption and water use.

2021: Becoming the Ronald and Maxine Linde Laboratory for Global Environmental Science

In 2021, following the recommendation to Caltech's board of trustees and with the full support of the faculty, staff, and students housed in the building, Henry Robinson's name was struck from the laboratory. Robinson, a local banker and lawyer, was a founding member and trustee of the eugenics Human Betterment Foundation. The Foundation actively promoted compulsory sterilization laws and inspired similar activities in Nazi Germany.

The Lindes

The Lindes

Ronald Linde has been a Caltech trustee since 1989. He is a private investor and chairman of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Foundation, a private foundation that the Lindes established in 1989. He was founder, chairman, and CEO of Envirodyne Industries Inc. He also held various scientific research and management positions at Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) and has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications in science and technology. He received a BS degree in engineering from UCLA and MS and PhD degrees in materials science from Caltech.

Maxine Linde is a private investor and president of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Foundation. She was involved in the early U.S. space program as a scientific programmer at JPL and subsequently served as Envirodyne's general counsel and chief administrative officer. She received a BA degree in mathematics from UCLA and a JD degree from Stanford Law School.

The Lindes have established the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professorship of Applied and Computational Mathematics at Caltech. They also have provided funding for a number of important research projects at Caltech and have funded a challenge grant to create the Ronald and Maxine Linde/Caltech Alumni Laboratories in Caltech's Broad Center for the Biological Sciences. More recently, they established the Ronald and Maxine Linde Institute of Economic and Management Sciences at Caltech