Only eight drops have fallen in the 83 years since the pitch began dripping, and no-one has ever seen one fall.
Professor Mainstone had been custodian of the Pitch Drop Experiment for 52 years.
“John’s death is particularly sad as in his time as the custodian of the experiment, he did not see a single drop fall,” said Professor Rubinsztein-Dunlop.
The experiment is now under constant surveillance, with three webcams trained on it to capture the ninth drop’s fall on camera.
Radiolab did a show about the pitch drop experiment a little while ago, and that was the first I’d heard of the experiment. But I was enchanted by the idea of it – a scientist who has patiently kept an experiment running for much of his career, but through chance and coincidence, missing the culmination of that experiment. Now that I work with engineers, there is a part of me that has developed a soft spot for scientists and experiments and the dedication they bring to the work they do. I don’t always understand the science behind it, but I appreciate the effort and the challenge, and the hunt for the answers.
I’ve been watching the pitch drop experiment since I heard the story, waiting for that drop, and from time to time, thinking of Professor Mainstone waiting for the same thing.
Rest in peace, Professor. We’ll watch for you.