Plan B: Engineering a Cooler Earth

Our Building: History


Origins and Early Years

The building now housing The Linde Center for Global Environmental Science was originally designed by the Goodhue Associates, constructed in 1932, and named for Caltech trustee and benefactor Henry Robinson. 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 Robinson 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 Robinson Laboratory itself 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 Robinson 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.


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. For example, the shaft that was once part of the solar telescope now directs daylight into the underground floors, and the pit at the bottom of the shaft stores cold water, chilled at night on the Linde + Robinson Laboratory's roof, to provide air conditioning during the day.

After its first life in the 20th century as an astrophysical laboratory, The Linde + Robinson Laboratory is now in its second life of scientific discovery in the 21st century—this time focused on fundamental questions about Earth.

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

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