Around the Loop: Chemical Industry Honors its Past in Philly

The City of Brotherly Love Hosts Chemical Heritage Foundation's Heritage Day

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The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF, www.chemheritage.org) celebrated this year's Heritage Day with almost non-stop awards ceremonies and related events honoring outstanding individual achievements and contributions to the Chemical Industry. The annual event was held June 17 in Philadelphia.

 

CHF’s impressive facility is located in the heart of Philadelphia’s historic district. An afternoon walking tour organized by the group afforded participants an opportunity to visit the remains of Benjamin Franklin’s principal dwelling, the reputed home of Betsy Ross, and the Old Friends Meeting House and cemetery.

 

 "The Othmer Gold Medal is awarded annually to recognize enduring cntributions to our chemical and scientific heritage."

 

Arnold Thackray, Executive Director of CHF, deserves substantial credit for shepherding an idea, sponsored by ACS, AIChE and many other professional organizations, into a center for intellectual activity in chemistry and related technologies. The Othmer Library is an invaluable resource for chemical research and includes the large collection formerly housed at The Chemists’ Club of New York

 

Arnold O. Beckman, renowned instrumentation pioneer, was a major patron of CHF. CHF is also home to a collection of classical analytical instruments. A few instruments from this collection are on permanent display throughout the CHF facility, but with the total collection numbering 600-700 instruments, planning is underway for a larger permanent exhibit.

 

The historical instrumentation exhibited at the 50th PITTCON annual meeting about five years ago was subsequently donated to CHF. Another major addition (about 150 instruments) came from Perkin Elmer’s Bodenseewerke in Germany including a rare IR-12 infrared spectrophotometer prototype. The CHF website (www.chemheritage.org/exhibits/50instruments) contains a list and description of the 50 instruments (actually 63 are identified) that "changed the world". A companion list identifies the Ten Most Wanted models that CHF is hoping to add to their collection.

 

The Othmer Gold Medal is awarded annually to recognize enduring contributions to our chemical and scientific heritage through exceptional activity in such areas as research, innovation, legislation and philanthropy. Receiving the award this year was Jon M. Huntsman, chairman of Huntsman Corporation.

 

Upon accepting the honor, Huntsman commented on the product innovations within the chemical industry: "Oh yes, many new products were created by us and others, and we brought to the world stage, at least our family and company, the first polystyrene egg cartons; the first plates, bowls and dishes made of plastic; the first take-out food containers, Big Mac containers, meat and poultry trays, and wide variety of newly-created, and today globally used, products."

 

Huntsman’s acceptance speech also focused on the new challenges facing the chemical industry and a new generation of management, including, "New environmental guidelines, regulatory laws, foreign competition, wild energy cycles, terrorism away and within our chemical sites, ruinous currency swings, consumer misunderstandings, hydrocarbon whipsaws, political pressure to move offshore, cutbacks in personnel, downsizing, lawsuits from neighbors and public distrust." According to Huntsman, these are all 21st century challenges that must be addressed by management in the chemical industry. "I have watched my own second-generation children, who are far better fighters and builders than their parents, and I cheer. They are the superstars of tomorrow. They will reinvent this industry amid the howls and cries of those cheering for our defeat, or who, at best, cherish the status quo."

 

Madeline Jacobs, Executive Director of the American Chemical Society, received the Commercial Development and Marketing Association Award (CDMA) for executive excellence. Jacobs, an award-winning science writer was recognized for her leadership skills as former editor-in-chief of Chemical & Engineering News. The CDMA Award recognizes the achievements of truly outstanding individuals whose careers have advanced the understanding and practice of commercial development in the chemical and allied industries.

 

The American Institute of Chemists’ (AIC) Gold Medal honors exceptional service to the science of chemistry and to the profession of chemist or chemical engineer in the U.S. The 2004 AIC Gold Medalist Carl Djerassi, professor of chemistry at Stanford, is a founder of Syntex, a pioneer in protein research as well as a gifted author and playwright.

 

The final event was the Winthrop-Sears Award dinner sponsored by The Chemists’ Club of New York. Established in 1970, this award recognizes individuals who, by their entrepreneurial action, contributed to the vitality of the chemical industry. The 2004 recipients were also founders of Syntex, George Rosenkrantz and Alejandro Zaffaroni.

 

Terrence K. McMahon

McMahon Technology Associates

Mcmahontec135@aol.com

 

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