|Former name||Center for the History of Chemistry (1982-1992)|
|Established||22 January 1982|
|Location||315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106|
|Key holdings||Alchemy, History of chemistry, History of science, Instrumentation|
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is an institution for the history of science. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it includes a library, museum, archive, research center and conference center. It was founded in 1982 as a joint venture of the American Chemical Society and the University of Pennsylvania, as the Center for the History of Chemistry (CHOC). The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) became a co-founder in 1984. Renamed the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 1992, it moved to its current location, 315 Chestnut Street in Old City, in 1996.
The institution focuses not only on the history of chemistry but on the history of science, the history of technology, trends in research and development, the impact of science on society, and relationships between science and art, among other subjects. It actively supports a community of research scholars and an active oral history program. As of 2012, CHF was the largest grantor of research fellowships for the history of science in the United States.
- Center for the History of Chemistry
- Challenge and Growth
- External links
President Carsten Reinhardt articulates the mission of CHF as follows: "CHF fosters dialogue on science and technology in society. Our staff and fellows study the past in order to understand the present and inform the future. We focus on matter and materials and their effect on our modern world in territory ranging from the physical sciences and industries, through the chemical sciences and engineering, to the life sciences and technologies. We collect, preserve, and exhibit historical artifacts; engage communities of scientists and engineers; and tell the stories of the people behind breakthroughs and innovations."
The idea of creating a "a library of reference and a chemical museum" in the United States can be found in the Proceedings of the first meeting of the American Chemical Society in 1876. Impetus for the creation of the Chemical Heritage Foundation dates to 1976, when the nation's bicentennial and the centennial of the American Chemical Society (ACS) stimulated interest in both history and chemistry. John H. Wotiz of the Division of the History of Chemistry of the ACS organized a session on the history of chemistry as part of the ACS centennial activities and was a strong proponent of a national center for historical chemistry.
Center for the History of Chemistry
In 1979, the ACS formed a task force chaired by Ned D. Heindel to investigate the possibility of creating a national center for the history of chemistry. Arnold Thackray, a professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and curator of the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection on the history of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, argued for the formation of such a center in Philadelphia. He was able to obtain promises of private support from chemist John C. Haas, and institutional support from the Dow Chemical Company and DuPont. In December 1981 the ACS approved the establishment of the Center for the History of Chemistry, with support of $50,000 per year for five years, in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania, which was to provide an equivalent in goods and services. An agreement to create Center for the History of Chemistry was signed by officers of the American Chemical Society and the University of Pennsylvania on January 22 and 26, 1982. A policy council was appointed by the sponsoring institutions to oversee routine operations of the center, and Arnold Thackray was appointed part-time director of the center on April 29, 1982. The official inauguration of the center was held on March 11, 1983. The Center's first home was in several vacant basement rooms on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Its "immediate aims" included gathering oral histories of important chemists and inventorying papers and manuscripts in repositories throughout the country to map "the largely unexplored territory of the history of chemistry and chemical technology."
Challenge and Growth
A National Advisory Board was also formed, reaching out to a wide-ranging group of people from academia and industry. As of 1982, its members included John C. Haas, historians Margaret W. Rossiter and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. and at least three Nobel Prize winners, Christian B. Anfinsen, Herbert C. Brown, and Glenn T. Seaborg. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) became a co-founder of the Center, signing an agreement on August 27 and 28, 1984. In addition, CHF began to establish relationships with affiliated organizations such as The Chemists' Club, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, the Electrochemical Society and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry.
The Center for the History of Chemistry expressed an interest in "The Conservation of Historic American Chemical Instruments" as early as 1983, in discussions of a possible joint project with the Smithsonian. However, the center did not yet have exhibit or collections space to allow for the acquisition of any but the most limited quantities of documents. The center was able to curate a number of traveling exhibitions by collaborating with other organizations, including "Joseph Priestley: Enlightened Chemist", "Polymers and People", "Scaling Up", and "Chemical Education in the United States".
Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry (BCHOC)
During the 1980s the center came to the attention of Arnold Orville Beckman. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation provided a $2 million challenge grant in 1986 to stimulate expansion of the center as a research institute, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry (BCHOC). Beckman challenged the center to define its mission more broadly, reaching out to academic, professional and trade organizations, and including biochemistry, materials science, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and instrumentation within its mandate. The National Foundation for History of Chemistry was established in 1987 as a supporting Pennsylvania nonprofit. The renamed Beckman Center began a major capital campaign, listing as its needs "offices, an exhibit gallery, a reading room, library stacks, and archives and storage areas." It celebrated its inauguration on November 5, 1987. With support from the American Chemical Society's "Campaign for Chemistry", the Center was able to move to 3401 Walnut Street, on the University of Pennsylvania campus, as of March 9, 1988.
Othmer Library of Chemical History
In 1989, the Center received a further challenge grant, this time from Donald F. Othmer and his wife, Mildred Topp Othmer. Donald Othmer was a quiet chemical engineering professor from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn. The Othmers donated $5 million towards the creation of the Othmer Library of Chemical History. Again, efforts to match the grant were supported by the National Foundation for History of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society's Campaign for Chemistry. The new library was further supported by the donation of 8,500 monographs, textbooks and reference works from The Chemists' Club of New York.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
On July 1, 1992, the National Foundation for History of Chemistry officially changed its name to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, in recognition of the international nature of chemical history. By 1994, the First National Bank at 315 Chestnut Street was being discussed as a possible permanent home for CHF's Beckman Center and Othmer Library. The institution was able to purchase the bank and nearby property in 1995 in part through a matching grant from Donald Othmer. Soon after its endowment was significantly expanded by a bequest from the estate of Donald Othmer. The Chemical Heritage Foundation moved to 315 Chestnut Street as of February 1, 1996. Renovation of the buildings by Richard Conway Meyer occurred in two main phases over the next few years. Phase 1, providing temporary office space and book storage, was completed in 1998. Phase 2, transitioning to more permanent facilities, was completed in 2000. Phase 3, construction of the adjoining Ullyot conference space for meetings and events, began soon after.
Creating a Public Museum
Acquisition of a permanent building finally made it possible for the institution to seriously address the idea of developing "a public museum and display area". One possible focus for a museum was the history of instrumentation. As early as 1989, the Beckman Center had appealed for the loan or gift of Beckman Instruments such as the Beckman pH meter and the DU Spectrophotometer, for display at the Center. Some of those instruments were included in an instrumentation exhibit organized by W. Richard Howe of the University of Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (PITTCON) in 1994, and expanded in 1999. In the early 1990s, inspired by John Ferraro, a committee was formed within the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS), to pursue the creation of an instrumentation museum. Edward Brame and other members of that committee connected with Arnold Thackray and formed the nucleus of CHF's Chemical Instrumentation Museum Group (CIMG) in 1994. In 1997, on the recommendation of the CIMG, CHF's board approved a collections policy for the acquisition of "historically significant chemical instruments and apparatus". Instrumentation, however, was only one of several areas of interest as CHF began to expand its collections.
CHF is particularly interested in the origins of early science and chemistry. CHF’s varied holdings have considerable depth both in alchemical books and fine-art depictions of early modern alchemists. The institution's collection of alchemy-related artwork, one of the largest in the world, builds upon two significant collections. Chester Garfield Fisher, founder of Fisher Scientific, started collecting alchemical art in the 1920s. In 2000, his collection of alchemical paintings was donated by Fisher Scientific International to CHF. In 2002, the institution received another gift from Roy Eddleman, founder of Spectrum Laboratories, whose collection contained paintings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Together, the two collections contain more than 90 paintings and 200 works on paper illustrating the work of alchemists and their influence on the development of chemistry as a science.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation expanded its instrument collections slowly, mostly through donations of single instruments or small groups of instruments. In 2000 the CIMG was transformed into the Heritage Council Instruments and Artifacts Committee (HCIAC), which included both staff and supporters and began meeting under the leadership of founding chair W. Richard Howe. In 2002 CHF was presented with hundreds of instruments by Stephen P. DeFalco, president of PerkinElmer, when the company closed a plant in Überlingen, Germany. An interim exhibit of "Revolutionary Tools" was curated at CHF by David Brock, showcasing fifteen 20th-century instruments, including Arnold Beckman's pH meter.
In 2004 a list of "50 Instruments That Changed the World" was identified as a basis for further expansion. In 2008, a list of CHF's ten most wanted instruments was released. The Chemical Heritage Foundation's collections include such pioneering and landmark instruments as a 1934 Beckman Model G pH Meter, a DuPont 900 Differential Thermal Analyzer, an early custom Electro-spray Ionization Mass Spectrometer used by John B. Fenn, a 1947 Mettler B5 Single-Pan Balance, a 1963 Perkin-Elmer Model 125 Infrared Grating Spectrophotometer, and a c. 1980's Automated Peptide Synthesizer created by Bruce Merrifield.
The Arnold O. Beckman Permanent Exhibit and the Clifford C. Hach Gallery
As early as 1996, the Chemical Heritage Foundation had envisioned a broadly-based museum of chemical progress in which instruments would have "a major, but not exclusive role". That vision was followed when Peter Saylor of Dagit•Saylor Architects created the public museum and conference space. The Arnold O. Beckman Permanent Exhibit and the Clifford C. Hach Gallery for rotating exhibitions opened in 2008. The Arnold O. Beckman permanent exhibition, Making Modernity, was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates. It has been described as an "art gallery for science", and showcases objects from CHF's widely varying collections. "The instruments are only a fraction of the objects on display. The exhibit also includes books, documents, and artwork from CHF's collection, as well as an array of consumer products." The exhibit is organized around thematic arcs illustrative of the history of science, particularly chemistry. Displays include the influence of alchemy in early chemistry, the development of the first plastics, the development of brilliantly colored synthetic dyes, scientific advocacy for public health in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the teaching of chemistry through books and chemistry sets.
Arnold Thackray, the institution's first president, was awarded the 1983 Dexter Award for his contributions to the history of chemistry. Thackray was succeeded by Thomas R. Tritton, under whose leadership (2008-2013) the history of science museum opened to the public in its present location, and the fellowship program expanded. Following a global search, Carsten Reinhardt, a professor of the history of science from Bielefeld University, Germany, was chosen in August 2013 as President and CEO of the organization.
Chemical Heritage Foundation is home to many significant collections relevant to the history of chemistry.
- The Othmer Library: In 2004 the Othmer Library became the steward of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library, which represents one of the most comprehensive single deposits of books on the history of chemistry in the world. Roughly 6,000 titles in all, the Neville collection comprises materials that date from the late 15th century to the early 20th century and includes many of the most important works in the history of science and technology from this period.
- Center for Oral History: The Center for Oral History at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, administered by CHF’s Center for Contemporary History and Policy, aims to create a collection of comprehensive, professionally edited interviews with leading figures in chemistry and related fields.
- Archives: The Chemical Heritage Foundation collects, preserves, describes, and makes available the unique, unpublished materials that document the past 200 years of our chemical history. CHF actively collects archival materials from outstanding scientists, industries, and professional organizations. Spanning over 5,000 linear shelf feet, these collections are a major attraction for scholars of the history of chemical and molecular sciences.
- Photographs: CHF’s Image Archive contains an extensive collection of photographic prints, negatives, and slides reflecting the chemical history of the past century. CHF currently holds more than 20,000 images of notable chemists, laboratories, industrial scenes, historic gatherings, and chemical artifacts. These images hold considerable interest for scholars, journalists, and publishers who are active in chemistry-related fields. Informal snapshots and personal photos capture notable scientists at work and at play, such as the polymer chemists Wallace Carothers and Carl Shipp Marvel on a fishing trip and chemical engineer Donald Othmer and his wife on their wedding day. Highlights include:
- Williams Haynes Portrait Collection: nearly 1,000 formal portraits of important chemists from the early 1900s
- Travis Hignett Collection: images from the Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory (1920–1950)
- Joseph Labovsky Collection: the history of nylon
- Dow Historical Collection: 20th-century industrial images 
- Fine Art: Strengths of CHF’s fine-art collection include the Fisher Scientific International Collection and the Roy Eddleman Collection, more than 90 paintings and 200 works on paper that unmask the world of the alchemists. In their pursuit of the elusive philosophers’ stone, alchemists created a body of knowledge about the material world through experiments and lab work, setting the stage for modern chemistry. Other highlights of the fine-art collection include oil paintings depicting such early modern chemical activities as distillation and metallurgy and watercolors showing the production process of the textile ramie.
- Artifacts: CHF collects three-dimensional artifacts to gain a representative group of material-culture objects that can be used as resources for both research and exhibition. CHF holds a variety of historical artifacts related to chemistry and chemical education, including instrumentation. It has one of the best public collections of chemistry sets, with approximately 100 different sets from all over the world, including Australia and Germany. Other special artifact collections include The Beauty of Bakelite and Chemistry and Fashion. Highlights include the Beckman IR-1 spectrophotometer, John Fenn’s electrospray mass spectrometer and Bruce Merrifield’s solid-phase peptide synthesizer.
CHF offers many fellowships-in-residence, of varying lengths.
Long-Term Fellowships (9 months)
- Gordon Cain Fellowships in Technology, Policy, and Entrepreneurship : The Cain Fellowships are open to postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars who plan to conduct historical research on some aspect of the development of the chemical and related industries. Multiple fellowships offered.
- Sidney M. Edelstein Fellowships : The Edelstein Fellowships are designed for postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars whose projects deal generally with the history of the chemical and molecular sciences, technologies, and industries, regardless of time period. Two fellowships offered.
- John C. Haas Fellowships : The Haas Fellowships are open to postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars whose projects will enhance understanding of the chemical industries in relation to societal, environmental, health, and safety issues and in the public understanding of science. Two or three fellowships offered.
- Charles C. Price Fellowship : The Price Fellowship is open to predoctoral scholars pursuing research on the history of the chemical sciences and technologies. Preference is given to applicants with projects on the history of polymers; however, scholars interested in other fields are also encouraged to apply.
Short-Term Fellowships (1–4 months)
- Robert W. Allington Fellowships : Allington Fellowships are available to scholars doing research with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
- CHF Fellowships : CHF Fellowships are available to scholars doing research with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
- Herbert D. Doan Fellowships in the History of the Chemical Industries : Doan Fellowships are available to scholars doing research on topics related to chemical engineering and industry with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
- Société de Chimie Industrielle Fellowship : The Société Fellowship is designed to stimulate public understanding of the chemical industries. Applications are encouraged from writers, journalists, educators, and historians of science, technology, or business. The fellow will spend three months in residence at CHF. Multimedia, popular book projects, and Web-based projects are encouraged.
- Glenn E. and Barbara Hodsdon Ullyot Scholarship : The Ullyot Scholarship sponsors historical research that promotes public understanding of the chemical sciences. Applications are encouraged from scholars, graduate students, science writers, and journalists. The fellow will spend a minimum of two months in residence at CHF.
- The Eugene Garfield Grants Program :
- Theodore and Mary Herdegen Fellowship in the History of Scientific Information : Herdegen Fellowships are available to scholars doing research in the history of the production, transmission, and/or organization of scientific information. Preference is given to fellows working in areas of chemical information
- Noshir T. Mistry Fellowship in the History of Chemical Engineering : The Mistry Fellow will investigate diverse topics in the history of chemical engineering, including chemical process engineering and chemical product engineering.
- Paul Otlet Fellowship in the History of Information Science : The Otlet Fellow will conduct research that carries forth our understanding of documenting information and its role in enabling and disseminating scientific discovery. Preference is given to fellows studying information science before 1944, the internet, or to work that explores the political dimensions of science documentation.
- Raquel and Arthur Seidel Fellowship in the History of Intellectual Property and Patents : The Seidel Fellow will work at the intersection of history of chemistry and the law in order to understand how the legal system has interacted with scientific process as it relates to discovery, patenting, commercialization, and public perception.
Research Travel Grants (1–2 weeks)
The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry offers travel grants for periods of up to two weeks for research using the primary research materials in CHF’s Othmer Library of Chemical History. Applicants must currently reside more than 75 miles from Philadelphia in order to be eligible.
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- "Honoring the Othmers: Generosity, Vision, and a Transformative Gift". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- "The American Chemical Society: Proceedings of the first meeting for organization, New York, April 6, 1876". The American Chemist 7 (11): 401–402. 1876. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
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- Bowden, Mary Ellen; Flaumenhaft, Daniel (1997). Chemistry is electric!. Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Foundation. ISBN 0-941901-17-3.
- "The Conservation of Historic American Chemical Instruments". CHOC News 1 (3): 12. 1983.
- "Joseph Priestley, enlightened chemist an exhibit celebrating the 250th birthday of Joseph Priestley". Philadelphia: Center for History of Chemistry. 1983.
- Elliott, Eric (1986). Polymers and People: An Informal History (1st ed.). Philadelphia: The Center for the History of Chemistry.
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- Heitmann, John Alfred; Rhees, David J. (1990). Scaling up: science, engineering, and the American chemical industry. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania.
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In 1982, when the Chemical Heritage Foundation was a fledgling research organization starting out with only $50,000, it asked chemical engineers and experts around the country to serve as advisers on its council of friends. One of those who accepted the invitation was Donald F. Othmer, a chemical engineering professor at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, an unassuming scholar who originally hailed from Omaha, Neb.
- Price, Charles C. (1989). "Making History: The Challenge Met - And the Challenge Ahead". The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry News 6 (2): 1–2.
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Note: This article predates the opening of the 2008 museum by several years; the museum exhibit discussed here was a temporary instrumentation exhibit from 2002, not the permanent museum of 2008. Although the authors refer to the "Chemical Heritage Foundation Scientific Instrumentation Museum", this is not the museum's official name.
- Jarnutowski, Robert J. (2 Feb 2009). "Setting The Record Straight (letter to the editor)". C&EN news. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
Note: The 2008 museum's focus on the history of science and science's impact on culture is much broader than an "educational display of pioneering and landmark instruments": equating the two is an apples-and-oranges comparison.
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