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Special Issue Includes 2010–2011 Report to Donors

H e r i t a g e

F o u n d a t i o n

No. 10 | Summer 2012

Can chemistry feed the world?


No. 10 | Summer 2012 Transmutations is a newsletter published three times per year for supporters of CHF. Comments or questions about this issue? Please contact Mary Ellen Burd, Director of Communications For information on supporting CHF, please contact Mike Wronski, Director of Individual Giving

Chemical Heritage Foundation

What if

Library • Museum • Center for Scholars

smartphone? What if high-school students thought it was fun to debate the history of

315 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106-2702 Phone: 215.925.2222 Fax: 215.925.1954

materials science? What if viewers around the world could be inspired by the stories

Hours The Museum at CHF Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. First Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. (by appointment; schedule at

you could experiment with CHF’s vast chemistry-set collection on your

of extraordinary women in chemistry? Thanks to funding from generous supporters, these big ideas are now being made a reality at CHF. We’re always seeking new ways to tell the story of chemistry, and we’re pleased to report our cutting-edge outreach programs have been attracting strong financial support from public and private funders alike. Thank you for your continued support of the scholarly rigor and high quality of our programming. The following list includes just a few of our most significant advancements over the last year and a half. • CHF received a $70,000 grant from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation to create an interactive mobile app for Stinks, Bangs, and Booms: The Chemistry Set in America, an upcoming exhibit based on CHF’s world-class collection of vintage chemistry sets. Users at the CHF museum—and anywhere in the world—will be able to “open” a set and explore its contents.

Go to for

• The Heritage Philadelphia Program, part of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage,

• Chemical Heritage, CHF’s magazine

approved a $144,800 grant to CHF for a new program, “The Case of Plastics,” in

• Distillations, our award-winning podcast

which high-school chemistry students will argue the merits of plastics in a series

• Periodic Tabloid, the blog of CHF staff and scholars • Classroom Resources • Event Registration And much more Also check out CHF on

Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Issuu Design: Willie • Fetchko Graphic Design

of mock trials stressing the vital role of history in any informed debate. • “Advanced Materials: Stories of Innovation,” a symposium presented by CHF in partnership with Discover magazine, was a big hit. Video footage of the event will be featured on the Discover website, and the event will also be covered in an upcoming print issue. • The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded a $255,000 grant to CHF to develop The Catalyst Series: Women in Chemistry, a series of eight videos highlighting the achievements of eight remarkable women. Directed by PBS producer Glenn Holsten, the series will appear on CHF’s website and be promoted through social media. Built on the stellar scholarship for which CHF is known, our outreach programs find creative ways to bring the excitement of chemistry and its history to new audiences. We thank you, CHF’s donors, for carrying this excitement and vision into the

Cover, bottom left: Night falls on the Metropolitan Club in New York City on November 11, 2011, the evening of the Feeding the World conference. Cover, bottom right: Children watch a “disappearing spoon” experiment take place at last year’s Science Cabaret. For information about our 2012 Science Cabaret festivities, which packed Ullyot Hall with 180 attendees, turn to “Generating Reactions” on page 5.

current fiscal year.

Thomas R. Tritton

Steven Koblik

President and CEO

Chair, Board of Directors

cover story Held at the Metropolitan Club in New York City, Feeding the World was made possible by the generous support of BASF Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, and Sumitomo Chemical America, Inc. The panels featured, clockwise from top left, Rik L. Miller, president of DuPont’s Crop Protection division; Paul Rea, vice president of BASF’s U.S. Crop Protection unit; Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist; Thomas R. Tritton, president and CEO of CHF; Gary Toenniessen, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation; Jay J. Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America; Antonio Galindez, president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences; Nina Fedoroff, Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University; Calestous Juma, professor of the practice of international development at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Andrew C. Revkin, environmental journalist for the New York Times.


From left: panelist Gary Toenniessen; audience member Peter Pringle, author of Food, Inc.: Mendel to Monsanto—The Promises and Perils of the Biotech Harvest; and panelist Calestous Juma.


Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. Ridley delivered a keynote address on the power of human ingenuity to solve the problem of global hunger.


Indispensable Optimism


T H I S PA G E : H E C H L E R P H OTO G R A P H E R S ; O P P O S I T E PA G E : CO N R A D E R B


n November 2011 humanity reached a major milestone. As the number of humans living on the planet officially passed 7 billion, many predicted the world food supply will not be able to sustain a ballooning global population, which could reach 9 billion by 2050. That same month, however, the audience at CHF’s Feeding the World symposium in New York City heard a very different story. This major conference brought together luminaries from the worlds of industry, academia, and policy, each of whom made the case for chemistry as a key defense against future global food crises. Feeding the World began with an opening address by Calestous Juma, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa. Juma described the power of chemistry to address multiple challenges faced by the African continent, including the cre-

ation and use of superabsorbent polymers to retain water in very dry areas. Such ingenious solutions by chemists are a major reason to be hopeful about the future, according to keynote speaker Matt Ridley, author of the bestselling book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. Ridley said that the cross-pollination and natural selection of ideas have always driven human progress, and he portrayed chemistry’s ability to find ways to grow more and waste less food as part of this process. As long as the evolution of ideas continues, Ridley argued, “ambitious optimism is morally mandatory.” Andrew C. Revkin, environmental journalist for the New York Times, moderated the conference’s two panels, “Challenges to Feeding the World” and “Promises of Technology,” before a crowd of more than 150 people. Revkin said he had enthusiastically agreed to participate in the conference

because CHF created the opportunity to thoughtfully advance a conversation that is vital to the future. “Almost every time global prices surge, a decades-long food fight resumes among experts foreseeing collapse, seeking a return to traditional farming methods, or pushing for new agricultural technologies,” Revkin explains. “I find that the best route to public understanding on tough issues— like feeding a growing human population—lies with discourse, not sound bites. That’s why events like [Feeding the World] are so valuable.” Programs like Feeding the World allow CHF to celebrate chemists as ambitious optimists finding solutions to tomorrow’s most serious challenges, and you can help us continue this acknowledgment. To support CHF’s biggest initiatives, please contact Denise Creedon at 215.873.8266 or 1

Fellow in Focus

Making the Material World

Catherine Jackson.

From Friedrich Wöhler’s groundbreaking (and accidental) synthesis of the organic compound urea to the Curies’ discovery of radium and polonium, the 19th century saw synthetic chemists achieve a remarkable mastery over nature. But how did this transformative period of discovery come about? Were chemists guided by luck or genius—or by theory, as many histories of organic synthesis have claimed? In her monograph Material World: Analysis, Synthesis, and the Making of Modern Chemistry, Catherine Jackson, the 2011–2012 Gordon Cain Fellow at CHF, presents an entirely new account of the development of organic chemistry. In contrast to the standard narrative Jackson argues that it was the laborintensive methods of organic synthesis—rather than theoretical frameworks—that led to productive theories of structure and reactivity. Jackson arrived at her conclusions by piecing together the lost realm of 19th-century laboratories, using texts and artworks in the CHF archives to recover a world of purification, characterization, and standardization; of glassware, textbooks, and manuals of practice. Jackson has firsthand knowledge of the fascination of hands-on chemistry. She began her working life as a research chemist, before teaching chemistry and history of chemistry at University College London. She earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in history of chemistry from the University of London. Jackson says that what she values most at CHF are the time and space to concentrate on her writing within the supportive environment provided by the Beckman Center’s community of scholars. “CHF is the world’s leading center for the history of chemistry. The library is fantastic,” Jackson says. “I simply couldn’t be anywhere better to write Material World.” The Cain Fellowship was created with a gift from the late Gordon Cain. The income from the gift supports longterm fellowships, the Gordon Cain Conference, and a variety of travel grants.

Oral History Spotlight

“Don’t Fall in Love With Your Invention” In 1956 George Hatsopoulos founded Thermo Electron based on his invention of a thermionic converter, which produces electric power from heat by thermionic electron emission. He later turned the company’s focus toward other technologies; in his recent oralhistory interview Hatsopoulos explains this decision and offers sage advice to aspiring inventor-entrepreneurs: “One piece of advice I give all people who have an invention and want to start a company is, ‘Don’t fall in love with your invention.’ You should be in love with building a successful company. Maybe your invention will do it; maybe it won’t. I didn’t fall in love with my invention, the thermionic converter. Very early I decided that it couldn’t be the basis for Thermo Electron. Do you remember Wernher von Braun? His vision was to send a man to Mars, and he couldn’t do it without thermionic converters. You see, the only way to fly a spacecraft to Mars and back is through thermionic conversion, because carrying the necessary amount of fuel would make the vehicle too heavy 2

to get into space. Realizing this, von Braun offered me a $28 million contract to work on a thermionic reactor for space travel. At first I was elated, but this was in 1962, and President Kennedy was being criticized for spending too much money on the space program. I decided that sending a man to Mars wouldn’t go anywhere. I asked myself, ‘Then what’s the future for Thermo Electron?’ Thermionic conversion was too expensive for commercial applications; so I decided to go into other businesses. I called in my research team and said, ‘It’s time to think of some other technologies. I want us to develop a mechanical heart.’ A lot of our people got very enthusiastic about that. When we started to pursue the artificial heart, we got a lot of funding from the National Institutes of Health. This became the basis for Thermo Cardio Systems, which is a successful business to this day. Over the years I guided Thermo Electron into other profitable businesses; in the 1970s we built Thermo Instrument Systems into the largest scientific-

George Hatsopoulos. Photo courtesy of George Hatsopoulos.

instrument company in the world. We were a success because I didn’t make the mistake of falling in love with my invention.” To support CHF’s oral history program, please contact Denise Creedon at 215.873.8266 or

Fundraising Feature [BELOW] J. Erik Fyrwald, former president, Ecolab Inc., and current president and CEO, Univar, presented the March 2012 talk on “The Water Challenge: Improving Resourcefulness to Overcome Limited Resources” to a sold-out audience of 90 attendees.

Karen Meidlinger, founder and managing principal of Meidlinger Partners, LLC, exchanges business cards with a guest at the March 2012 JPS lecture.


Hank Whalen, retired vice president of PQ Corporation and former board chair of the American Chemical Society, has served as the program committee chair for the Joseph Priestley Society since its inception in 2002. While continuing to serve on the committee, Whalen is stepping aside as its chair this year. CHF thanks him for his ongoing dedication. Here, Whalen is presented with a certificate of appreciation for his contributions to JPS. From left: David Alcorn, vice chair, JPS; Wayne Tamarelli, chair, JPS; Hank; and Barbara Whalen.

Meetings of Minds: CHF’s Joseph Priestley Society Many people know Joseph Priestley as the British scientist who discovered oxygen. But it was Priestley’s business acumen—in addition to his scientific genius—that caught the eye of David Alcorn in 2002 as he sought a name for the new CHF luncheon series he’d cofounded with other CHF supporters. “Priestley was very much interested in the business opportunities created by research,” Alcorn says. “For example, he figured out how to make the first carbonated water when studying carbon dioxide. He shipped it off to J. J. Schweppes, who’s now synonymous with the soda-water business. At the time we began the series, CHF was holding an exhibit about Priestley—and we found our namesake.” Now in its tenth year the Joseph Priestley Society (JPS) offers a unique focus on the intersection of chemical discovery and business opportunity. JPS holds lunchtime lectures at CHF almost every month, welcoming such stars of the chemical industry as Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont, and Raj Gupta, former CEO of Rohm and Haas, to speak on topics of their own choosing. Alcorn says the speakers’ high level of expertise sets JPS apart from other professional societies. “At JPS you are often hearing from one of the top experts and leaders of development in an entire field. You also get a sense of new directions

in industry very early: for example, we knew about the movement toward green chemistry long before it was widespread in the media.” Perhaps Joseph Priestley himself—famously a member of the Lunar Society, a group of top British scientists that met monthly to socialize and share their discoveries—would approve of another important aspect of JPS: the leisurely networking receptions that precede each lecture. “The business connections are made before the talk even starts,” explains Bob Kenworthy, manager of affiliate relations at CHF. “You get to know people and pick up information that you would never learn from the newspaper or other sources.” Looking back on a decade of JPS, Alcorn is pleased with what he and cofounders Ed Fording, Wayne Tamarelli, and Hank Whalen have wrought. “A discussion of significant issues with people who are making a difference—you can’t get much better than that,” Alcorn says. The true strength of JPS lies with its participants. You can help CHF continue to grant this unique access to today’s most innovative minds in chemistry-related fields. To support JPS please contact Bob Kenworthy at 215.873.8292 or e-mail development@ 3

donor profile John Haas

Synthesizing Support

A s h a r e d v i s i o n a n d va lu e d f r i e n d s h i p

The first time I met John Haas was during the search that concluded with my appointment as CHF’s president and CEO. I knew him by reputation, of course, since the Haas family is truly outsized in its contributions to Philadelphia’s well-being. But I did not know the man himself, and I was not sure what to expect when we had our first one-on-one encounter. Typically in such situations the conversation will start with idle chatter about the weather, local sports, or some current but non-threatening news story. John was having none of that. Instead, what I got was all business and no chitchat— a totally down-to-earth conversation. He wanted to know my concrete plans for CHF, my ideas on ways to improve science and technical education, my thoughts about how to nudge the public’s attitude more positively toward the chemical industry, and to discuss any other matter that avoided the usual banalities of everyday discourse. I immediately realized that this crisp focus was why John was such a successful person. What I did not immediately grasp was why John’s life was so dedicated to philanthropy, to improving the human condition, to making the world—and especially Philadelphia—a better place. As I got to know John better, I came to understand that he simply could not help himself. The inseparable triad of his family; their company, Rohm and Haas; and a penchant for doing good were so completely intertwined in John that it is impossible to conceive of the man with fewer dimensions.

John Haas and his wife, Chara. Photo by Douglas A. Lockard.

This is why John was utterly instrumental in the original formulation of the Center for the History of Chemistry, which eventually transformed into CHF. Along the way John served on both the board of directors and the board of overseers, as campaign chair, as instigator of three different scholarly fellowships at CHF, and in practically every other role that someone here at CHF asked him to fill. One could not invent a more complete man than John, nor a person who was more influential in the imagining and realization of this thriving organization. I thank him. Thomas R. Tritton, President and CEO

C e l e b r a t i n g 2 5 y e a r s o f f e ll o wship

The year 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. • The Beckman Center has hosted 178 fellows between 1988 and 2012. • Our fellows have come from 19 countries, including the United States. • Between 2002 and 2012 the Beckman Center devoted $2,474,500 to stipends for individual fellows pursuing independent research at the intersection of science and the humanities.


• The Beckman Center is now the largest source of non–university based fellowships for historians of science in the United States.

Lawrence M. Principe (Othmer Fellow, 2001) is the Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of the History of Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry. He is the author of The Aspiring Adept: Robert Boyle and His Alchemical Quest, which won the 2005 Pfizer Prize, and The Secrets of Alchemy (forthcoming in 2012). He was the first winner of the Francis Bacon Medal for contributions to the history of science.

“CHF is an incredible, and always improving, resource of both books and colleagues; it has been critical for my continuing historical scholarship.” —Lawrence M. Principe

CHF Remembers

Generating Reactions

We respectfully honor the following individuals for

During the second annual Philadelphia Science Festival,

their dedication and support of CHF. They are fondly

a 10-day, citywide collaboration showcasing science, technology, engi-


neering, and mathematics, CHF made chemistry accessible to diverse

Britton Chance Donald L. Felley John B. Fenn Herman Fialkov John C. Haas

audiences in a slate of entertaining events. Participants ooh-ed and

Sheldon E. Isakoff Karl Pfister Laird G. Ward Wayne L. Worrell

aah-ed at eye-popping science experiments at the Science Cabaret; snacked on icing at a demonstration of cupcake chemistry; flirted with like-minded science lovers at a speed-dating event; and raced across town on a science scavenger hunt. To see photos from the festival, visit

Dynamic Engagement

recent events

[1] During a September 2011 lecture, Sir John Meurig Thomas (right) demonstrated how famed British chemist and physicist Michael Faraday discovered electro-magnetic induction. Plunging a strong magnet into a conducting coil causes an electric current to flow, as indicated by the meter on the table.



[2] The Advanced Materials Symposium welcomed industry experts to discuss the future of materials innovation. From left: Ivan Amato, panel moderator and author of Stuff: The Materials the World Is Made Of; Christopher D. Pappas, president and CEO of Styron; Thomas M. Connelly, Jr., executive vice president and chief innovation officer of DuPont; Mark Doriski, global intermediates technology manager of ExxonMobil Chemical Company; A. N. Sreeram, vice president of research and development for the advanced materials division of The Dow Chemical Company; Ryan Dirkx, vice president of research and development for Arkema Inc.; and Gregory W. Nelson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Eastman Chemical Company.

[3] The conference Frontiers of Discovery: AWIS at 40 Years celebrated the founding of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) in 1971. From left: Alice Marcy, president of AWIS–Philadelphia; Joan Herbers, president of AWIS; Nancy Jackson, 2011 president of the American Chemical Society; Joanne Gere, president of AWIS–Central New Jersey; and Thomas R. Tritton. [4] Thomas R. Tritton (middle) moderated a discussion between Emil Jacobs of ExxonMobil (left) and J. Craig Venter of Synthetic Genomics (right) at the T. T. Chao Conference in Houston. Jacobs and Venter discussed their alliance to research and develop biofuels from photosynthetic algae.



[5] Shigehiko Hattori, chairman of the board of Shimadzu Corporation, accepted the first-ever posthumous Pittcon Heritage Award on behalf of Genzo Shimadzu, Sr. and Jr., father and son founders of the Japanese instrumentation company that bears their name. [6] On Innovation Day 2011, the SCI Gordon E. Moore medal was presented to Doron Levin (middle), researcher at ExxonMobil Chemical Company. Left: Stephen D. Pryor, vice president of ExxonMobil Corporation since 2004 and president of ExxonMobil Chemical Company. Michael Kerby, global chemical research manager for ExxonMobil Chemical Company.




Chemical Heritage Foundation Library • Museum • Center for Scholars


315 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19106-2702






We tell the story of chemistry.



Fellow in Focus Speaker: Catherine Jackson “Beyond Genius, Before Theory: Recovering the Lost World of Practice in Nineteenth-Century Chemistry”

Inspiring Youth in Chemistry Through June 2012


May The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) fosters an understanding of

First Friday at CHF CHF participates in Philly Beer Week

chemistry’s impact on society. An


independent nonprofit organization, we strive to • Inspire a passion for chemistry; • Highlight chemistry’s role in


Biotechnology Heritage Award Awardee: Nancy Chang June


First Friday at CHF

challenges; and


and its technologies and industries across centuries.

instruments, fine art, photographs, papers, and books. We host conferences and lectures, support research, offer fellowships, and produce educational materials. Our museum and public programs explore subjects ranging from alchemy to nanotechnology.

[ABOVE] During the 2011 holiday season, CHF presented “Fairyland of Chemistry: A Victorian Science Performance,” an original production based on 19th-century books that used fairy tales to explain chemistry to children.

Transmutations: Alchemy in Art Ongoing The Whole of Nature and the Mirror of Art: Images of Alchemy Ongoing


First Friday at CHF August



Joseph Priestley Society Luncheon September

CHF maintains major collections of

Making Modernity Ongoing

Boston, MA

meeting current social • Preserve the story of chemistry

Alchemical Quest: The Esoteric and the Everyday Opens July 2


History Live Speaker: Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory July 18 Innovation Day September


for further information and registration details. Follow CHF on


Transmutations – Spring 2012  

Transmutations is a newsletter published three times per year for supporters of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

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