UMass Amherst: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends

Spring 2008

Morrill Made Easy
By Vince Cleary

Ever been perplexed, like the student in this photo, about the seemingly crazy-quilt pattern of the Morrill Science Center’s numbering system, or wonder who is responsible for the charming, funky, homemade maps of the buildings that have helped generations of students navigate its maze-like halls? Note that Morrill 1 occupies the same building as 4-North, then, proceeding south, across the garden, 4-South lies next to Morrill 2, and 2 in turn, sits next to Morrill 3; therefore 1, 4, 2, 3. Go figure.

Research has failed to determine the originator of these maps, but we do know that retired geosciences professor S. A. “Tony” Morse, is responsible for the copies that grace the Morrill corridors. He admits to placing them there in the mid to late 1970s.

In buildings dedicated to logical, scientific reasoning, how came this numbering system to be? Is it the work perhaps of some scientist who’s spent too much time in the lab? Maybe it’s an early forerunner of the popular Sudoko math puzzles, now the craze, where all columns must have numbers 1 through 9. Or perhaps Morrill’s numbering system is the UMass Amherst equivalent of a Down East joke: The sign’s ironic tagline “Don’t panic, it’s not supposed to make sense,” suggests, “You can’t get there from here.” Whomever it was, the mapmaker certainly had a sense of humor.

The answer to the puzzle is, in fact, a logical one: The buildings are numbered in the order in which they were built: 1 in 1959, 2 in 1960, 3 in 1963, and 4 in 1966.

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