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March 26, 2001
Volume 79, Number 13

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ACS History
Society Reaches 125th Birthday

DIAMOND JUBILEE ACS celebrated its 75th anniversary in grand style in New York City in September 1951.

Anniversary serves as a milestone to commemorate ACS's contributions to the advancement of chemistry and society

The quarter century following 1976, the centennial year of the American Chemical Society, has brought many developments to the field of chemistry--economic, political, scientific, and technological--that were, of course, largely unpredictable. In fact, the first chapter of the history of the society's first 100 years, "A Century of Chemistry" (by Herman Skolnik and K. M. Reese), ends with this statement: "No one can predict the future. But the American Chemical Society approached its centennial, on April 6, 1976, in a position of strength to serve chemists and chemistry worldwide and thereby to continue to advance the uses of chemical science and technology in filling the needs of mankind."

Oddly enough, even with the unexpected potholes of life, ACS seems to have taken good advantage of its position of strength and now has reached another milestone anniversary--its 125th--perhaps in an even better position to serve chemists and chemistry throughout the worldwide chemical enterprise. This article explores the highlights of the history of the American Chemical Society, with an emphasis on the accomplishments of the past quarter century.

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THE EARLY YEARS. Good fortune, at least in retrospect, has largely been the society's lot since its founding on April 6, 1876, at the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York (now New York University). The great scientific discoveries that came around the turn of the century--such as radium, the electron, radioactivity, and X-rays--exerted a great and beneficial impact on chemistry and thus on the fledgling ACS. In the interest of perspective, note that 1876 was not a good year for everyone: General George Armstrong Custer and Wild Bill Hickok, to name two, expired by violence during that year.

The origins of the society and its first 100 years have been recounted in some detail in "A Century of Chemistry" and the 1952 book "A History of the American Chemical Society--Seventy-Five Eventful Years" (by Charles A. Browne and Mary E. Weeks). In 1876, the U.S. was well behind Europe on all fronts in chemistry, which was taught in the U.S. mainly as part of the medical curriculum.

Yale University granted its first Ph.D. in science only in 1863, and Harvard University granted its first Ph.D. in chemistry in 1877. The Yale degree went to J. Willard Gibbs, who created chemical thermodynamics in an abstruse, two-part paper that appeared in 1876 and 1878.

ACS was incorporated in the state of New York on Nov. 10, 1877. This arrangement caused problems: All directors, for example, had to be residents of the state. But in 1895, the society induced the governor of New York to sign "An Act for the Relief of the American Chemical Society." This move seems to have solved the problem via a new ACS constitution--the fourth, dated Dec. 2, 1897--and the first to give ACS local sections--nine at the time--proportional representation on the ACS Council.

In 1907, Charles L. Parsons of New Hampshire College became secretary of the society, a post he would hold for more than 38 years. In 1911, Parsons was named chief chemist of the U.S. Bureau of Mines, but retained the part-time post of ACS secretary when he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1912. When Parsons moved, so did the headquarters of ACS from New York to Washington.

In 1908, meanwhile, owing to members' interest in being differentiated by specialty, ACS formed its first five divisions: Industrial Chemists & Chemical Engineers, Agricultural & Food Chemistry, Fertilizer Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physical & Inorganic Chemistry.

In 1915, Evan J. Crane began his 43 years as editor of Chemical Abstracts and, for two years beginning in 1956, as director of Chemical Abstracts Service, located by then on the campus of Ohio State University. When Crane retired, CAS as a publisher of abstracts in chemistry and related sciences was the best in the world.

When World War I broke out in 1914, the British blockade cut off shipments of chemicals from Germany, which was the world's dominant producer at the time. The U.S. quickly recognized the need for chemists and a chemical industry.

In April 1915, Germany introduced gas warfare, first using chlorine. In 1917, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane assigned the gas problem to the Bureau of Mines, where Parsons was still chief chemist. Parsons recruited many of the chemists who worked on the problem and was instrumental in the formation of the Chemical Warfare Service. People are still digging up potentially hazardous materials around American University in Washington, D.C., where the Bureau of Mines did its research and development on gas warfare.

THE DEPRESSION AND LATER. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused ACS to reduce its annual dues from $15 to $9.00 to help retain membership. In 1933, for the first time in three decades, the society upgraded its requirements for membership to include "an adequate collegiate training in chemistry or its equivalent."

In 1937, a busy year, the society held its first formal Employment Clearing House, chartered its first chapter of student affiliate members, and obtained its federal charter.

The American Chemical Society was still a New York corporation, and the board of directors had decided to reincorporate under an act of Congress or the laws of the District of Columbia. It turned out to be an act of Congress: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Public Act No. 358, 75th Congress, on Aug. 25, 1937. The act granted the society a federal charter effective Jan. 1, 1938.

In 1941, the society moved its headquarters from rented quarters to a five-story apartment house at 1155--16th St., N.W., in Washington, which it had bought for $150,000. The original building was razed and replaced by a new building in 1960--which was subsequently renovated in 1994--and ACS headquarters today is at the same site.

ACS did not begin to copyright its publications until 1940. It had refrained from doing so previously in the interest of free dissemination of scientific information. This policy had been gradually outmoded, however, by the growing size and cost of the publishing operations.

In 1943, Walter J. Murphy became editor of Chemical & Engineering News and Industrial & Engineering Chemistry. By 1950, C&EN had field editorial offices in New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and London. The society's advertising revenues in 1950 reached $1,219,000.

Parsons retired as secretary of ACS in 1945. He was succeeded by Alden H. Emery, his assistant since 1936. In 1947, Emery's title became executive secretary.

Events that made ACS a significant financial supporter of scientific research began in October 1944 with an agreement between the Guaranty Trust Co. of New York City and the seven oil companies that owned Universal Oil Products (UOP). The bank accepted the companies' securities as trustee for the newly established Petroleum Research Fund (PRF). ACS was to use income from the trust to support "advanced scientific education and fundamental research in the 'petroleum field.' "

In the late 1950s, the UOP securities were sold to the public and the proceeds to PRF were invested in a diversified portfolio with Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. as trustee. PRF awarded its first grants in 1954, and during 1960–75 averaged more than $3.4 million annually for research support. Support in 2001 is expected to total about $18 million.

THE DIAMOND JUBILEE. The American Chemical Society celebrated its 75th anniversary at the national meeting in New York City in September 1951. The speaker at the ceremonial session was organic chemist James B. Conant, president of Harvard University. He predicted in part that atomic warfare would not come during the second half of the 20th century, and that oral contraceptives would be available to the public in 1961. Both predictions were reported widely in the press. Conant was right about the bomb; the pill reached the market a year early, in 1960.

In 1955, the ACS Board reorganized the society's applied publications, those intended primarily to serve industrial practitioners. C. B. Larrabee, a past chairman of Printer's Ink, took the new post of director of publications, applied journals. Murphy became editorial director and, upon his death in 1959, was succeeded by Richard L. Kenyon.

In mid-1965, Emery concluded his more than 19 years as executive secretary. He was succeeded by Bradford R. Stanerson, who had been deputy secretary since 1960. Also in 1965, the society merged its applied and fundamental journals into a single unit with Kenyon as director of publications. Kenyon had headed the applied journals since 1962, when Larrabee had retired. That same year, a four-story building for CAS was completed in Columbus. A second CAS building, almost as large as the first, was completed in 1973.

National economic problems arose during 1969–73. The society was affected especially by cutbacks in research and development for space and military programs. ACS lost members and income and was compelled to reduce staff and the numbers of pages published.

In October 1969, as these setbacks loomed, Frederick T. Wall became executive director. The position was newly created in a reorganization that brought all ACS staff activities under a single head, who reported to the board of directors. Wall retired in 1972 and was succeeded as executive director by Robert W. Cairns, an ACS past-president (1968) and board chairman (1972).

ACS celebrated its centennial year with a pair of monster national meetings, in April in New York City and in August–September in San Francisco. Attendance at each meeting exceeded 10,000; the San Francisco meeting put on the largest technical program in ACS history at that time.

The principal speaker at the centennial banquet on April 6, 1976, was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was escorted into the banquet by then-ACS president and Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg. The principal speaker at the ceremonial session the preceding afternoon had been Nobel Laureate Linus C. Pauling.

Representatives of 37 foreign and international scientific organizations and 78 domestic societies, capped and gowned, moved in solemn procession to formally recognize the society's centennial. The noted soprano Patrice Munsel of the Metropolitan Opera entertained at the centennial banquet. Also at that event, U.S. Postmaster General Benjamin F. Bailar introduced a new chemistry postage stamp while observed by his father, John C. Bailar Jr., who had been ACS president in 1959.

In addition, W. Albert Noyes Jr., ACS president in 1947, spoke in New York at the ceremonial stuffing of the ACS centennial time capsule, which later was placed at New York University at the site of the society's founding in 1876. The site already was marked by a plaque placed there in 1951.

An aluminum seal bearing the ACS centennial logo marks the site of the capsule, which is made of a special steel alloy and is 12 inches long and 5 inches in diameter. It contains a variety of ACS memorabilia, including microfilm copies of various society publications; the ACS constitution, bylaws, and national charter; the centennial issue of C&EN, which was dated, conveniently, April 6, 1976; and C&EN's reports of the San Francisco and New York national meetings of 1976. At the time, the society hoped the capsule would last 100 years and be opened on or about April 6, 2076. Seventy-five years to go!

For the time capsule community, a record of chemistry--and much else--as it was in the late 1930s, lies buried in the Westinghouse Time Capsule on the grounds of the New York World's Fair of 1939. The contents of the 800-lb capsule, designed to last 5,000 years, include microfilms of the periodic table of the elements; excerpts of Encyclopaedia Britannica's treatment of pure and applied chemistry; and the presidential address, "A World of Change," by Edward R. Weidlein, ACS president in 1937. In October 1965, the Westinghouse Electric & Manfacturing Co. buried a second, 300-lb time capsule next to the first one. A granite monument marks the site.

 THE CENTENNIAL. The society's fortunes during the past quarter century have been conditioned, not surprisingly, by the state of the U.S. economy. The period spanned three recessions, of six, 16, and eight months. The same period also saw much progress in science and technology, changes in
workforce requirements that affected ACS members and other professionals, and surprising changes in global economics and politics.

These events created a certain turmoil. It is reflected, briefly, in then-ACS board chair Paul H. L. Walter's report in 1993: "In last year's report, [Board Chairman] Joseph Dixon emphasized the board's concern with unemployed and underemployed chemists. The programs developed in 1992--expansion of the National Employment Clearing House, career counseling, and résumé workshops--continued in 1993."

From the turmoil, how-ever, "emerged a prosperous, dynamic, and competitive economy that is widely viewed as a model for nations either making the transition from managed to free-market economies or seeking to join the ranks of wealthy industrialized nations," according to "Business Statistics of the U.S." (Bernan Press, Lanham, Md., 1999).

At the end of 1977, Cairns retired from his post as executive director and was succeeded by Raymond P. Mariella. At the end of Mariella's five-year term in December 1982, the post was assumed by the current executive director, John K Crum.

Meanwhile, at the Chemical Abstracts Service, Dale B. Baker retired in 1986 after 28 years as director. He was succeeded by Ronald L. Wigington. In 1991, Clayton F. Callis, the 1989 ACS president and a past chairman of the ACS Board, was named CAS director ad interim.

At the same time, the board made a major change in the governance structure of CAS. The core of the change was the creation of a CAS governing board with authority for almost all major policy decisions. In June 1992, Robert J. Massie, the current director of CAS, succeeded Callis.

A chemical event of historical, if non-ACS, interest, was the rise of chemist Margaret Thatcher to become prime minister of Great Britain in 1979. A graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, she worked about four years as a research chemist before moving on to politics in the conservative interest. The Iron Lady, as she was known in some circles, occupied 10 Downing Street until 1990.

In February 1981, when the prime minister visited Washington, D.C., she was given an ACS honor scroll by Mariella and then-board chair William J. Bailey.

 PRESERVING CHEMISTRY. A striking development of the past 25 years has been the move to establish a concrete, publicly accessible record of the achievements of chemists and chemical engineers. Two notable results have been the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), Philadelphia, and the ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program.

CHF had its roots in the society's centennial activities of 1976. A prime mover was John H. Wotiz of the Division of the History of Chemistry, who organized a symposium on the topic. Interest persisted, and in December 1981 the ACS Board approved the establishment of the Center for the History of Chemistry, in Philadelphia, as a joint effort with the University of Pennsylvania. ACS was to provide $50,000 per year for five years, and the university was to supply the equivalent in goods and services.

Operations started in 1982; science historian Arnold Thackray has been president from the beginning. Funds since have come from more than 50 major corporations and hundreds of other organizations and individuals.

In 1984, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers became a cofounder of the center. In 1992, the center became the Chemical Heritage Foundation, with two major elements: the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry and the Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History.

In June 2000, CHF dedicated its renovated new facility in Independence National Historical Park, two blocks from Independence Hall. The building houses all of the foundation's research, publishing, educational, and other activities; close to 40 employees; and resources, assets, and properties worth more than $100 million.

The National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program grants landmark status to sites, artifacts, and collections related to seminal achievements in the history of chemical science and technology. The
program initially was a joint venture of the Division of the History of Chemistry and the ACS Office of Public Outreach and is now administered by the ACS Board ad hoc Committee on National Historic Chemical Landmarks and the ACS Office of Communications. It has a dual purpose:

•To commemorate and preserve national historic chemical landmarks.

•To increase public awareness of the key role chemistry has played in our national and global history.

Prospective landmarks are nominated by ACS local sections and/or divisions. The society presents a commemorative plaque to the owner or administrator of the landmark and publishes a commemorative booklet written by the nominators. The designation, presentation, and related ceremonies and publications are designed to catalyze a local program focusing public attention on the landmark.

The first National Historic Chemical Landmark, designated Nov. 9, 1993, was the Bakelizer, the autoclave that Leo H. Baekeland used to produce Bakelite, the first wholly synthetic plastic. It's in the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As of November 2000, the landmarks program had designated 36 landmarks; eight are outside the U.S.

 EDUCATION PROGRAMS. The past quarter century has seen steady expansion of the society's programs in chemical education, which now cover all levels from preschool through midcareer. ACS programs are aimed both at students seeking careers in science and those who do not expect to need chemical knowledge in their working careers. Reflecting this growth, the Department of Educational Activities became the Division of Education in 1982 and the Division of Education & International Activities in 1998. To help support its educational work, ACS has acquired nearly $24 million during the past 20 years from federal agencies, private foundations, businesses and industry, and individuals.

A noteworthy product of this largesse has been the development of a new high school course for the general student. ACS launched the project in 1981, and the course is embodied in the textbook "Chemistry in the Community" (ChemCom).

The course pioneered the introduction of high school chemistry in a societal context. ChemCom, now in its fourth edition, has been translated into Russian, Japanese, and Spanish. Its success led ACS to develop courses and publications for other audiences that use the same approach: emphasis on science and technology in a societal context and inquiry-based instruction.

Continuing education for professional chemists has been a major ACS theme since 1965. In that year, the society offered its first short course at the Detroit national meeting. The topic was Interpretation of Infrared Spectra, and 55 people turned up.

Today, the short courses program annually includes more than 200 sessions attended by 5,000 scientists. The courses comprise both two- to five-day public sessions and in-house courses given for individual companies on demand. Programs of distance education--using correspondence courses, film courses, audio and video courses, satellite television, and the like--have never paid for themselves and so have been abandoned. The Education Division currently is taking another shot, this time with Internet courses.

The past 25 years have also been marked by progress in the society's minority outreach programs in chemical education. One of these is Project SEED, which places economically disadvantaged high school students in chemical research laboratories for summer learning experiences.

The program is supported by donations from ACS members, divisions, and local sections and from companies and private foundations. Project SEED struggled in the early 1980s, but today it offers a one- or two-summer opportunity for several hundred students each year; offers some 30 college scholarships a year to former SEED students; and has an endowment of close to $5 million. In 2000, Project SEED supported 214 students in the Summer I program and a record 80 in the Summer II program.

A second student outreach program, initiated by the society in 1984, is the annual National Chemistry Olympiad. This program relies on ACS local sections to identify outstanding high school chemistry students who then take a National Chemistry Olympiad test. The top 20 students next attend a 10-day training camp at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The four students left standing represent the U.S. at the annual International Chemistry Olympiad.

The first time the competition was held in the U.S. was in Pittsburgh in 1992 under the aegis of ACS with the Pittsburgh Section as major host. In 1999, in Bangkok, Thailand, the American team achieved its best finish ever in the international event. The team won three gold medals and one silver after eight days of competition against nearly 200 students from more than 50 countries.

In January 1995, the society launched the ACS Scholars Program for black, Hispanic, and Native American students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. The program was to be funded at $1 million per year for five years with an additional $530,000 for administrative costs for the five years. The awards were to be based on academic achievement and demonstrated financial need. Scholars receive renewable scholarships of up to $3,000 per academic year.

The ACS officers' report for 1996 said of this program's second year: "The retention rate of scholars continuing their studies has far exceeded our expectations (and those of the Educational Testing Service)." Through 2000, the society had distributed funds to more than 900 students. By mid-June of 2001, it expects to have committed some $8 million to the program in addition to corporate contributions.

The venerable ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT), established in 1936, has regularly evaluated undergraduate chemistry programs in U.S. colleges and universities. During the past 25 years, CPT's list of schools with approved programs has grown from 514 to 617.

The latest revision of CPT's bible, "Undergraduate Professional Education in Chemistry: Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures," appeared in 1999. Topical supplements to this publication are updated regularly as dictated by the rapid progress in chemistry. CPT's website, launched in August 1996, has become a valued repository of the committee's documents.

Looking into the millennium now upon us, ACS expects greater need for professional development of high school chemistry teachers. Chemistry teachers are expected to retire in droves during the next five years. They will be replaced by teachers who may be inexperienced, not especially chemically aware, or both. ACS expects to play a role in helping them get up to speed. Chemistry is not alone in this matter. All of the sciences are in the same boat and have equal call on the funds available to support high school science teaching.

 PROFESSIONALISM ARRIVES. Alan C. Nixon, ACS president in 1973, was the first of the modern era to have run on a platform stressing individual professional matters: salaries, employment problems, industrial development, and government activities. The several economic downturns of the past quarter century and earlier have gradually increased ACS members' interest in professionalism and their willingness to accept it as a proper function of a scientific society. Today's Council Committee on Economic & Professional Affairs (CEPA), under differing names, goes back to the Depression of the 1930s. The Division of Professional Relations gained full status in 1974. Indeed, current ACS President Attila E. Pavlath was a leader in the movement that elected Alan Nixon and other boosters of professionalism in the 1970s.

A major effort of CEPA and its predecessors has been issuance of the society's Professional Employment Guidelines (PEG). The guidelines first appeared in 1971 as Guidelines for Employers. PEG has been revised several times, most recently in 1998. Early revisions were attended by considerable acrimony, but the ACS Board and Council approved the 1998 version without debate. CEPA, then called the Committee on Professional Relations, also developed ACS Academic Professional Guidelines, which first appeared in 1991. An extensively revised version is scheduled for reissue in 2001.

Other ACS activities in the professional arena have included employment services, and the society currently is preparing to launch a full-service, online job center later this year. The plan is to build a technologically advanced job searching and recruitment site for the chemistry-related sciences worldwide. The society's Publications and Membership Divisions figured the time is ripe for an online clearinghouse for jobs and career guidance in chemistry and the related sciences and technologies. Many chemists now work in nontraditional jobs in diverse fields, and their needs can be served effectively by an interactive dynamic website.

 GOING INTERNATIONAL. In November 1979, the society added to Article II of its constitution a section stating: "To foster the objectives specified in this Article, the society shall cooperate with scientists internationally and shall be concerned with the worldwide application of chemistry to the needs of humanity." In so doing, ACS formally recognized activities it had been pursuing for many years. These activities take many forms.

In 1967, for example, then-ACS president Charles G. Overberger invited the presidents of a number of chemical societies in other countries to meet with him in Washington, D.C., to discuss topics of mutual interest. Those attending agreed to try to hold such meetings every other year. The most recent one came in late November 2000 in Washington, where ACS hosted officials from chemical societies of France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K. Added to the perennial issues discussed were new topics including green chemistry, establishment of international standards, and Internet practices.

During the late 1970s, the International Activities Committee noted that lack of access to chemical literature was hampering chemical research and development in economically lagging institutions in the U.S. and abroad. The committee then organized Project Bookshare, which arranges shipments of donated books and journals to selected libraries worldwide. With help from various agencies and private donors, Project Bookshare now ships 80 to 100 tons of books and journals annually to economically disadvantaged libraries around the world.

ACS also has been active in a series of conferences with the theme of Chemical Research Applied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN). These conferences were started by the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry to explore international problems with critical implications for chemistry.

The society has played important roles in organizing the first two of these conferences, in Toronto in 1978 and in Manila in 1982, as well as CHEMRAWN VII in 1991 and CHEMRAWN XIV, to be held June 9–13 in Boulder, Colo. This year's conference will focus on green chemistry.

 A HAND IN GOVERNMENT. Paralleling the growth in educational efforts during the past 25 years has been a burst of ACS activity in the area variously called government relations, public affairs, or advocacy. The society, of necessity, has long had an interest in government relations and public policy.

For many years, ACS had tended to pursue this interest informally through agents such as its first secretary--then the top ACS administrative post--Parsons, who served in that capacity for 38 years until 1945. Then, in 1965, the ACS Board established the Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs at the suggestion of then-ACS president Charles C. Price, who argued, "Only if the public and its officials are adequately informed can they make the best decisions on the future role of chemistry in public policy matters."

Now, some 35 years later, the society has 13 committees with an interest in some area of public affairs. At the top is the Board Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations, established Jan. 1, 1979. It bears sole responsibility for direction and oversight of the society's work in government relations.

Staff operations in this area are managed or coordinated by the Office of Legislative & Government Affairs (OLGA). Through this mechanism, ACS has pursued a variety of efforts designed to benefit both chemistry and the public. These efforts have included books and newsletters, public policy statements, responses to requests from federal agencies and Congress, and organization and sponsorship of special events.

The society's work to inform its members, policymakers of all stripes, and the public at large have included five paperback books, initiated by the Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs, on elements of chemical science and technology: "Cleaning Our Environment: The Chemical Basis for Action" (1969), "Chemistry in the Economy" (1973), "Chemistry in Medicine: The Legacy and the Responsibility" (1977), "Cleaning Our Environment: A Chemical Perspective" (1978), and "Chemistry and the Food System" (1980).

ACS launched its Congressional Fellowship Program in 1974, and the first fellow went to Capitol Hill in 1975. Since then, 34 ACS members have served a year with a congressional committee or in a congressional office. Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), current chairman of the House Science Committee, has said, "Science fellows offer invaluable assistance to congressional offices. The fellows provide expertise and a fresh perspective that would be virtually impossible to obtain any other way. At the same time, fellows come away with a much more clear and subtle understanding of the way legislation is developed."

In 1986, the society initiated a Science Policy Fellowship that permits ACS members to work in its government affairs office for one or two years. Nine members have done so to date.

The society has long used mail and telephone to urge its members to tell their congressmen of their views on issues that affect chemistry and the chemical world. In 1986, ACS began to organize such grassroots advocacy. It did so at first by establishing groups of members willing to lean on their congressional representatives as the budget of the National Science Foundation wended its way through the annual appropriations process.

In 1989, the society formalized these efforts in the shape of a National Science Funding Network with a special interest in NSF's budget. Separate networks were established in 1993 for the National Institutes of Health and in 1995 for environmental research. In 1999, these networks were combined to form ACS's Legislative Action Network. The Internet and e-mail have made the network fast and efficient.

This past December, then-ACS president Daryle H. Busch reported that some 6,500 society members were participating in the program. The network focuses mainly on the federal role in science education and R&D policy, but also works on issues involving the environment, labor, and industrial competitiveness.

In December 1996 came a report of an unusual nature: "Technology Vision 2020: The U.S. Chemical Industry." Its goal was to identify the emerging technologies essential to the competitiveness of the chemical industry. The report was sponsored jointly by ACS, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Council for Chemical Research, and the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now the American Chemistry Council).

The report had originated in a request from the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy for data on the advanced manufacturing needs of the chemical industry. It led the U.S. Department of Energy to establish a $5 million program of grants for research germane to the report's goals. By early 2001, however, the resulting Vision 2020 Technology Partnership had not attracted the anticipated industrial participation, and its leaders were seeking renewed commitments.

 INFRASTRUCTURE. A fashionable word inside the Washington Beltway, infrastructure, has concerned the society from time to time during its history, more so during the past quarter century.

In September 1983, ACS completed its purchase of the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, Md. The center is 8 miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and less than an hour's drive from Washington, D.C. It had been owned by the Smithsonian Institution.

The center includes a 25-room mansion, two other houses, and a barn on about 80 acres of partially wooded land. It is used for ACS functions and is rented to other organizations.

In 1984, the ACS Board decided to put up a 12-story office building next to the existing headquarters building in Washington. The building was raised on society-owned land, which previously had been used for employee parking.

The building was completed in spring 1988, but not without mishap. Construction was stopped for more than three months by the D.C. government when monitors indicated movement in a wall of the abutting Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. The matter was adjusted and, upon completion, the building was soon fully leased, except for two floors occupied by ACS.

Today, the society's operations fully occupy the building, which in 1989 was named the Donald F. & Mildred Topp Othmer American Chemical Society Building to recognize their $2.5 million contribution to the ACS Campaign for Chemistry of 1987–91.

Later on, in 1994, the ACS headquarters building was extensively renovated inside and out. Many staff and operations made do in temporary quarters nearby for 10 months. And as a measure of growth and success, ACS headquarters staff currently require additional office space, which is leased in nearby buildings.

CAS has completed a building/renovation program to handle its evolving projects. The program includes a new $20 million data center to house the extensive computer and communications facilities needed to maintain and distribute databases through a global network. CAS staff currently are moving in to the 46,000-sq-ft building.

 CHEMISTRY AND THE PUBLIC. The ACS-sponsored National Chemistry Day first happened on Nov. 6, 1987. It had been proposed by George C. Pimentel in 1986 when he was society president. The idea was to educate the general public about chemistry and its benefits.

Nearly all of the society's local sections at the time, helped by ACS staff, developed and presented in their communities a variety of programs, including exhibits and demonstrations in shopping malls and other public places, videotapes for local television or distribution to local schools, museum programs, and open houses in schools and colleges and in some chemical plants. The event has been termed "the most public-ly visible program the society has ever undertaken."

Such transfers of information may flow both ways. Mary L. Good, 1987 ACS president, said, "I would not be surprised ... if some of the chemical professionals who organized the programs and met the public learned as much about their audience as the public learned about chemistry."

National Chemistry Day had legs, as they say in show biz (or somewhere). In 1989, it became National Chemistry Week (NCW), but remained a biannual event. In 1993, NCW became an annual event. And in 1997, NCW for the first time embodied a unifying theme: mapping calcium and magnesium concentrations (hardness) in waters across the nation.

ACS Public Outreach staff mailed to local section coordinators more than 650,000 copies of the NCW activities booklet that year; Experiment 3 in the booklet contained test strips for measuring water hardness. Participants, mostly schoolchildren, returned more than 7,500 data points from 1,300 U.S. zip codes.

The unifying theme in 1998 was "A World of Color," and in 1999 the theme was "Celebrating Polymers." The theme this past year was "Chemistry Reacting to Hunger," and then-president Bill Clinton congratulated ACS on its National Chemistry Week activities.

NCW served as a model for the International Chemistry Celebration (IChC), which ran from November 1998 to November 1999. IChC was built on national public outreach programs, such as national chemistry weeks in various countries, and it took advantage of the traditional international cooperation in the chemical and scientific communities. The event was conceived in 1994. The ACS ad hoc Committee on the International Chemistry Celebration coordinated the necessary sharing of information and planning.

Organizations and individuals from more than 50 countries took part in IChC. International Historic Chemical Landmarks were honored in seven countries. Other programs around the world included nationwide student contests, public lecture series, museum exhibits, and much more.

In 1987, the ACS Board launched the Campaign for Chemistry to raise funds to meet critical needs beyond its financial means, strong though they were. The campaign ended in 1991 with pledges and gifts of $26 million, $19 million of it from corporations. Beneficiaries of the campaign included a variety of ACS educational programs, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution.

The exhibit was the subject of an agreement that ACS signed with the Smithsonian in 1989. It was titled "Science in American Life" and mounted at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., which at the time had 6 million visitors per year. At the same time, with support from Rhône-Poulenc, ACS acquired the French multimedia exhibit "Molecules & Society," which was then touring U.S. science museums.

"Science in American Life," funded by $5.3 million from the society, opened in April 1994. It started with a view of Ira Remsen's laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and moved through a history of American science, including the New York World's Fair, the Nuclear Age, and an introduction to biotechnology.

In the ACS annual report for 1994, the officers said: "Few of us have been completely pleased with the overall tone of the exhibition. Some of our members and other scientists perceive there to be an antiscience bias in the displays." In the same period, readers may recall, the same thing--charges of unseemly bias--happened with the exhibit featuring the Enola Gay, the first atomic bomber, at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum.

Repeated efforts to work with the Smithsonian to improve the balance of the exhibit failed, and in 1996 the society included itself out. The officers reported, "Continued support of the exhibit [more than $5 million to that point] was just not a good investment."

 NEW AGE OF PUBLISHING. A major development in ACS operations since 1976 has been the move toward electronic publishing of journals--that is, electronic processing and dissemination. To make its journals available on the World Wide Web in a practical manner, the society has invested some 25 years and many dollars in computer-based systems and staff training.

An early step came in 1975--well before the advent of the Internet--when the Publications Division started work on in-house production of journals using a database approach. In 1980, 1,000 articles from the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry were loaded as a private database at Bibliographic Retrieval Services (BRS) as an experimental prototype electronic journal. In 1981, an experimental file of 16 ACS journals was loaded at BRS.

Step followed step, and in April 1996, the Journal of Physical Chemistry, on its 100th birthday, became the first ACS journal to be released on the Web. That August, Biochemistry and Environmental Science & Technology were released on the Web. By the beginning of this year, all of the society's 34 journals and magazines had Web as well as print editions.

The steady evolution of the Chemical Abstracts Service during the past quarter century can be limned in the fewest words, perhaps, in terms of revenues. In 1975, CAS garnered 95% of its revenues from printed materials and the rest from electronic services; by the end of 2000, printed services accounted for 16% of revenue and electronic services for 82%. The shift toward electronic processing and products was driven in part by worldwide growth in research in chemistry and related sciences. During 1975–99, the number of abstracts produced by CAS nearly tripled, to more than 19 million since it began.

CAS had been producing computer-readable tapes of bibliographic records by 1968. These were licensed to commercial vendors who marketed them for online searching. By 1975, publication of Chemical Abstracts issues was fully computerized. In 1980, CAS introduced its own online service, named, appropriately, CAS Online. In November 1981, CAS introduced searching by structure or substructure diagram. During the years since, structure-based searching has proven to be the most useful aspect of online access to CAS records.

In 1983, ACS and the German scientific organization FIZ Karlsruhe agreed to collaborate in an international network of databases in chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences. They introduced the new network, the Scientific & Technical Information Network, or STN International, in May 1984. With this development, CAS Online became the family of CAS files on STN.

Also in 1984, CAS introduced the neatly named CAOLD database. CAOLD was designed to include Chemical Abstracts references to substances indexed before 1965, when the CAS Chemical Registry system was started. In 1998, CAS added to CAOLD images of Chemical Abstracts pages from 1907–66, an additional 60 years of records for search and retrieval.

In 1995 came SciFinder, a desktop research tool designed for easy interaction with the search system. SciFinder Scholar, launched in 1997, is designed for use by chemistry students and faculty.

And so it goes. With the advent of the World Wide Web, in the 1990s the society, among other moves, launched CHEMPORT, a cooperative effort of CAS, the ACS Publications Division, several other publishers, and CAS's STN partners FIZ Karlsruhe and Japan Science & Technology Corp. CHEMPORT offers links from databases to full-text journal articles and patents on the Web.

In 1996, ACS unveiled its ChemCenter website. The society had maintained a website for several years, but with ChemCenter created a one-stop site--the leading portal for chemically related information: meetings; professional services such as employment, journals, CAS services, and document-delivery; and much more.

Note: ACS History is available in Adobe PDF format. (8.6MB)
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GREEN CHEMISTRY. In the mid-1990s, ACS members helped the Environmental Protection Agency design the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. The awards aim to recognize and promote fundamental research and technologies that combat pollution and are broadly applicable in industry. In 1996, at EPA's request, the society agreed to manage the selection panel for the awards. The society's work in the Green Chemistry Awards program was recognized in 1997 by the receipt of a special award from then-vice president
Al Gore's National Performance Review.

On Jan. 1, the Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) became part of ACS operations in Washington, D.C. The two organizations plan to pursue their joint interests in the discovery and design of chemical products and processes that eliminate generation and use of hazardous substances. GCI began and has grown as a network of interested people in academe and government that operate primarily via the Internet. In the new arrangement, the institute will appoint its own director, who will be an employee of the society. ACS will supply a $200,000 starter grant and $300,000 per year for five years as core funding.

  126TH YEAR AT HAND. ACS completed its 125th year with gains on all fronts. Membership in 2000 totaled more than 163,000, up 47% from 1976; of those chemists in the workforce, 61% worked in industry, 26% in academe, and 8% in government. Expenditures totaled some $334 million, about nine times the amount in 1976. The number of divisions, reflecting members' professional interests and specialties, totaled 33 at the beginning of this year as opposed to 28 in 1976. The number of journals and magazines had increased similarly, from 22 in 1976 to 34 today.

These gains are not, of course, happenstance. The society periodically develops and reviews its strategic plan to ensure remaining on course. The current strategic plan, covering 2001–03, focuses on three interrelated centers of attention:

•Moving toward customization of products and services to suit the diverse individual needs of members and other beneficiaries.

•Innovative use of the Internet as the driving force of information technology and information services.

•International delivery of services in collaboration with appropriate partners.

The future, again, is unpredictable. But late in 2000, the business cycle, which some thought--or hoped--might have gone away, reared its pesky head again. The stock market faltered; business activity slowed; the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, cut interest rates; and President George W. Bush pledged to pursue his campaign promise to cut income taxes. And as the nation--or even the world--goes, so goes the American Chemical Society. Stay tuned.

K. M. Reeseis a former managing editor of C&EN and longtime author of Newscripts. C&EN Senior Editor Stephen Ritter contributed to this article.


Copyright © 2001 American Chemical Society

Celebrating 125 years of Chemistry

Happy Birthday ACS!

Attila E. Pavlath, ACS President

Nina I. McClelland, ACS Board of Directors, Chair

John K. Crum, ACS Executive Diretor

ACS History
Society Reaches 125th Birthday
Anniversary serves as a milestone to commemorate ACS's contributions to the advancement of chemistry and society

Important Chemical And Related Events

ACS Today
ACS At 125: A Chemist's Place
The American Chemical Society offers its members an extraordinary array of products and services

ACS Contacts
Get in Touch with ACS

2001 American Chemicals Society Board of Directors

ACS Publication
The Society's 34 journals and magazines cover all areas of chemical research

C&EN features the thoughts and aspirations of 171 young chemists, chemical engineers, and business leaders, who collectively describe a vibrant and challenging future for the chemical enterprise.

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