University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 1/1995
Modern-day Merlin's magic both fun and educational

     He's prone to hammering nails with frozen bananas, trying to
set money on fire and exploding things. It's all part of the
glowing, disappearing and color-changing magic that can be found
in the bag of chemical tricks belonging to George W. Luther III,
professor of marine studies.
     A modern-day Merlin, Luther produces an annual chemical
magic show each fall at Coast Day, the College of Marine Studies'
annual celebration of marine life with plenty of food, fun and
family activities. The magic show has become so popular that,
this year, it was moved from the Virden Center on the Hugh R.
Sharp Campus in Lewes to Cape Henlopen High School there to
accommodate the crowd.
     "It's a nice way to get people to understand a little about
chemistry," the modest wizard says, "a way, for example, to let
those of us who enjoy fireflies know that their light is really a
chemoluminescence reaction that can be re-created on stage."
     Luther's career as a chemical wizard began almost 30 years
ago when he was an undergraduate at LaSalle University. He went
on to receive his doctorate in physical and inorganic chemistry
from the University of Pittsburgh and to perform countless
chemical magic shows, which have rarely been the same twice.
     "I try to add something new to the show each time," he says.
     Luther concedes that education is his ulterior motive as a
chemical magician.
     "I want to show that chemistry is fun," he says. "Chemicals
can undergo changes that are both educational and entertaining.
People, kids from ages 1 to 92, really enjoy trying to explain
what's happening."
     Many of Luther's tricks demonstrate basic physical and
chemical properties of matter. Others allow audiences to witness
unusual chemical reactions. And, he points out, not only are the
reactions interesting in themselves, they can sometimes be used
to illuminate marine phenomena.
     "One of my tricks, where a solution of one color develops
into two different colored liquids, is a good representation of
what happens to water in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer
season," he says.
     Luther's research at UD's College of Marine Studies involves
marine chemistry, specifically how metals and sulfur compounds
cycle in the environment and how minerals are formed and
                                     -Beth Chajes/Beth Thomas