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C&EN Special Issue: 85th Anniversary Of The Priestley Medal - Volume 86, Number 14, April 7, 2008

1951: Evan J. Crane (1889–1966)

C&EN wrote of the 1951 Priestley Medalist, “If there is one man who could be called the keeper of the keys to the wealth of the chemical industry, that man would be Evan Jay Crane, who has literally devoted his life to unlocking doors to chemical knowledge” (Aug. 4, 1958, page 80).

A true son of Columbus, Ohio, Crane graduated from Ohio State University in 1911; the university was only two blocks away from his birthplace. He stayed in Columbus during his entire career with Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS). He started working there right after graduation and remained through his retirement—some would say semiretirement—in 1958.

When he started at CAS, Crane was supervised by Chemical Abstracts (CA) editor Austin M. Patterson. Together, they worked with three other people in the one-room editorial offices of CA on the Ohio State campus. By the mid-1950s, CAS’s physical space had expanded to only four rooms, but the amount of chemical literature was exploding, and managing the information had become a daunting task.

Crane was first and foremost concerned that research was being hampered by the vague chemical nomenclature of the time. “Nomenclature development is not easy,” Crane said. “The hard work required takes much time, study, criticism, correlation, and original thinking, and it calls for a truly comprehensive knowledge of the scientific field involved as well as of word structure.”

He believed that the greater good in chemistry could be served by, to the extent possible, preventing the different branches of chemistry from developing “nomenclature systems out of step with each other.”

Crane also believed that scientists were not getting enough information on prior research and that scientific progress was being hampered. He called on the government, which provided money for research, to also provide for funding to “systematically record the new information obtained and for keying it to serve further progress effectively.”

Nearly all of the early abstracting for CA was done by volunteers; Crane enjoyed abstracting, too. In May 1930, he began publishing “The Little CA,” a “pint-sized but potent publication” that he used to communicate with his fellow abstractors and section editors. “The Little CA” was a labor of love that continued after he retired.

In his C&EN Priestley Medal profile (Oct. 15, 1951, page 4272), an associate of Crane’s was quoted as saying “Abstracting is no easy task, particularly when it is done for an organization that keeps on sending out reminders that the goal is perfection.”

In his last edition of “The Little CA,” published less that a week before he died, Crane wrote, “Abstracting is a wonderful way to spend an evening. … to go off to one’s study, bedroom, kitchen table, or wherever is quiet with chemical reading to do, having a double purpose: (1) learn and savor more chemistry and (2) make useful abstracts.”—Linda Raber

More On This Topic

  • 85th Anniversary of the Priestley Medal
  • Introduction
  • C&EN celebrates the American Chemical Society's highest honor
  • Priestley's Medals
  • The medals of the minister-scientist who discovered oxygen attest to his fame and infamy
  • The Priestley Medalists, 1923-2008
  • View a complete list of award recipients
  • Living History
  • These 12 Priestley Medal winners reflect on winning ACS's most coveted award
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society

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More On This Topic

  • 85th Anniversary of the Priestley Medal
  • Introduction
  • C&EN celebrates the American Chemical Society's highest honor
  • Priestley's Medals
  • The medals of the minister-scientist who discovered oxygen attest to his fame and infamy
  • The Priestley Medalists, 1923-2008
  • View a complete list of award recipients
  • Living History
  • These 12 Priestley Medal winners reflect on winning ACS's most coveted award