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June 27, 2011
Volume 89, Number 26
pp. 39

International Year of Chemistry

Chemistry’s contributions to the well-being of humanity are being celebrated in 2011

Rudy M. Baum

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To commemorate the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011), C&EN asked several prominent figures in the chemistry enterprise to contribute essays about the achievements of chemistry and how chemistry is improving the lives of human beings around the world.

The goals of IYC 2011 are to increase the public’s appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry. The year 2011 also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded to Marie Curie and provides an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of women to science.

The six essays that follow examine a few of the many ways chemistry is being harnessed to meet the challenges humanity faces. In the first essay, for example, Temechegn Engida, president of the Federation of African Societies of Chemistry, looks at the positive role chemistry can play in sustainable development in Africa, especially how chemical education should evolve on the continent. Engida, who has lectured on chemical education at Addis Ababa University and elsewhere in Africa, argues that “chemistry in Africa should establish itself more as a practical enterprise than a theoretical one.”

Engida points to food chemistry and environmental chemistry as examples. “Food chemistry … is particularly important for Africa,” he writes. “The continent possesses abundant natural resources, and the majority of its population lives in agriculture-based economies. Yet it is not self-sufficient in food production.” Chemistry is an important component of changing that situation, Engida writes, and the education of future chemists in Africa must be geared to such practical issues.

In the same vein, John W. Finley, a professor in the department of food science at Louisiana State University, and James N. Seiber, a professor in the department of food science and technology at the University of California, Davis, write in the second essay that “opportunities are greater than ever before for cutting-edge science to improve food and agriculture. Chemistry, in particular, can help provide a safe, healthful, and sustainable food supply to meet a growing worldwide population.”

Two essays focus on chemistry’s role in providing people with safe and effective medicines, from very different perspectives. Geoffrey A. Cordell, a professor emeritus in the department of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois, Chicago, discusses the intersection of chemistry and traditional medicine, and Roger L. Williams, chief executive officer of the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, focuses on quality standards for ensuring the delivery of safe drugs. In his essay, Paul T. Anastas, assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research & Development, gives his perspective on green chemistry and its role in a sustainable world.

Finally, the essay on Marie Curie by science historian and biographer Naomi Pasachoff, a research associate at Williams College, reflects on this great scientist’s career and legacy.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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