History/Trivia Archives - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

Celebrate Black History Month by Learning About the Achievements of Black Chemists

Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate the past achievements of Black chemists and chemical engineers. It’s also a time to talk about pioneering Black chemists doing exciting work in the chemical sciences today.

In honor of Black History Month, here are a variety of resources from the American Chemical Society for learning about the work of Black chemists past and present.

Interviews with Black Chemists on ACS Axial

Malika Jeffries-ELTheodore Goodson III | Willie E. May  | Rodney D. Priestley | Gregory H. Robinson | Renã A. S. Robinson | Herman O. Sintim | Blanton S. Tolbert | Davita L. Watkins

Articles from C&EN

C&EN’s 2021 Trailblazers Issue Focusing on Black Chemists

Black Chemists You Should Know About

Career Ladder Profile: Paula Hammond

More Black History Month Resources From ACS:

A Call for Diversity Story Guest Editorials

ACS Honors African Americans in the Chemical Sciences

Celebrate Black History Month with 5 Remarkable Black Chemists

Highlighting Prominent African American Chemists

National Historic Chemical Landmark: St. Elmo Brady

National Historic Chemical Landmark: Norbert Rillieux and the Multiple Effect Evaporator

National Historic Chemical Landmark: Percy L. Julian and the Synthesis of Physostigmine

Spotlighting Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers [VIDEO]

Mentoring the Next Generation of Black Chemists [VIDEO]

2020 ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces Young Investigator Award Goes to Cheng Zhong

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, in partnership with the ACS Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry, is pleased to announce that Dr. Cheng Zhong, Tianjin University, is the winner of the 2020 ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces Young Investigator Award. Dr. Zhong will present a lecture at the 2021 ACS Fall National Meeting.

I caught up with Dr. Zhong to find out more about his career to date.

How did you become interested in materials science?

Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the development of materials used by human beings. From the oldest Stone age to the Bronze Age and the Iron age, it seems that each progress of human civilization is accompanied by the development of materials of vital importance to our daily lives. Therefore, the belief to broaden human knowledge in materials and improve our life stayed in my heart, which finally led me to a research career in material science.

Can you give us a short overview of the research you are currently undertaking?

My research focuses on materials chemistry in batteries, particularly aqueous battery technology, including high–activity catalyst, semi solid-state electrolyte, high–energy anode, flexible design for zinc-based batteries, and new design for the aqueous battery, aiming at discovering next-generation electrochemical energy storage systems.

Have there been any particular highlights in your career to date that you are especially proud of?

I have a team of students with great dreams in scientific discovery, and we are brainstorming almost every day. The great and interesting ideas that come from brainstorm are definitely the highlights in my life, which makes me feel that I am not alone in my research career.

Is there anyone who has been a great role model, mentor, or inspiration to you?

Galileo Galilei has my great respect. Though he was not understood by his contemporaries, and even oppressed, he kept discovering science until death, which motivates me to always insist on the truth.

What do you think is the most interesting and/or important unsolved problem in your field?

I think the most important thing we should do, and we are doing right now, is to establish the relationship between macroscopic energy storage system performance and microscopic electrode and electrolyte design, which is significant for the large-scale application of battery technology.

Have you received any good advice that stuck with you?

Galileo Galilei once said: “In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual,” which reminds me to keep being humble to the science and find the truth.

Check out these articles from Cheng Zhong and his colleagues for more details about research their work:

Developing Indium-based Ternary Spinel Selenides for Efficient Solid Flexible Zn-Air Batteries and Water Splitting
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2020, 12, 7, 8115-8123
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b18304
Bimetallic Metal–Organic-Framework/Reduced Graphene Oxide Composites as Bifunctional Electrocatalysts for Rechargeable Zn–Air Batteries
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11, 17, 15662-15669
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b02859
Long-Shelf-Life Polymer Electrolyte Based on Tetraethylammonium Hydroxide for Flexible Zinc-Air Batteries
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2019, 11, 32, 28909-28917
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b09086
Controllable Synthesis of NixSe (0.5 ≤ x ≤ 1) Nanocrystals for Efficient Rechargeable Zinc–Air Batteries and Water Splitting
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2018, 10, 16, 13675-13684
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b01651
Clarifying the Controversial Catalytic Performance of Co(OH)2 and Co3O4 for Oxygen Reduction/Evolution Reactions toward Efficient Zn–Air Batteries
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 27, 22694-22703
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b05395
Size- and Density-Controllable Fabrication of the Platinum Nanoparticle/ITO Electrode by Pulse Potential Electrodeposition for Ammonia Oxidation
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 33, 27765-27772
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b08604
Morphology-Controllable Synthesis of Zn–Co-Mixed Sulfide Nanostructures on Carbon Fiber Paper Toward Efficient Rechargeable Zinc–Air Batteries and Water Electrolysis
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 14, 12574-12583
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b16602
Synthesis of Cubic-Shaped Pt Particles with (100) Preferential Orientation by a Quick, One-Step and Clean Electrochemical Method
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 22, 18856-18864
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b04267

10 Inventions By Women Chemists

Women chemists are important inventors, creating a range of consumer products, materials, and medicines that never would have seen the light of day without their efforts. February 11 is the U.N.’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, but it also happens to be National Inventor’s Day. Celebrate both by learning about 10 inventions you can attribute to women chemists.

Wash-and-wear cotton fabric

Cellulose expert Ruth Benerito was working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture when she discovered a cross-linking process that strengthened the bonds between cotton’s chainlike cellulose molecules, leading to a reduction in wrinkles when washed. Her research also paved the way for the development of flame-retardant fabric. Over her career, she amassed 55 patents and more than 200 publications.

Non-reflective glass

Physicist and chemist Katharine B. Blodgett was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge and the first woman with a doctorate to work at General Electric. While there, she worked with Irving Langmuir to single-molecule surface layers, now known as Langmuir-Blodgett films. These layers are essential to creating all kinds of coatings, membranes, sensors, and electronic devices, including non-reflective glass. But while Langmuir won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery in 1932, Blodgett never received that honor.


Rachel Fuller Brown created the first antibiotic that was effective against fungal diseases in humans, working in collaboration with microbiologist Elizabeth Lee Hazen. This feat earned Brown a spot in the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame. Although the royalties on the drug could have made both women millionaires several times over, they donated it all to charitable causes, included funding scientific research.

Anti-Leukemia Drugs / Azisothymidine (AZT)

Gertrude B. Elion opted not to complete her doctorate in the 1940s because it would have interfered with her research alongside colleague George Hitchings. She went on to publish 225 papers, and her work led to treatments for leukemia, as well as the important AIDS medication azisothymidine, also known as AZT. She won a share of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.”

Molecular sieves / Synthetic emeralds

Edith M. Flanigen is better known for her work in molecular sieves, including zeolite Y, which was used to improve oil refining. This won her the Perkin Medal in 1992, the first woman ever to do so. Along the way, she secured 108 patents, including a hydrothermal process for creating synthetic emeralds for use in both industry and jewelry.

Diagnostic test strips

Helen M. Free developed inexpensive, easy to administer at-home tests for diabetes and other illness, alongside her husband, Alfred Free. The test, a strip of paper that changed color when dipped in urine, was the first diagnostic test that could be administered at home or in a doctor’s office without the need for expensive lab equipment. She received the Garvan Medal from ACS, honoring distinguished service to chemistry by a woman, in 1980 and served as president of the ACS in 1993. In 1995, ACS named an award after her: the Helen M. Free Award in Public Outreach.

Portable optical biosensors

Frances Ligler developed automated biosensors for use in the field while working for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. These sensors were capable of detecting things like pathogens, toxins, pollutants, and explosives. Her sensors were used to detect anthrax and botulinum toxin during Operation Desert Storm, and her group developed the underlying technology for the RAPTOR portable, automated biosensor. These sensors have been used by the U.S. Navy to test water, and by NATO to analyze biological toxins and pathogens. She is currently an Associate Editor of Analytical Chemistry.


Stephanie Louise Kwolek was working at DuPont when she discovered a method for creating synthetic fibers that were stronger than steel and lighter than fiberglass. That fiber became known to the world as Kevlar® and was used to save lives as the lining in bullet-proof vests — though it has also been used in spacecraft, helmets, tennis racquets, tires, and protective gloves. Among her many honors, she won the Perkin Medal from the ACS in 1997.


Patsy O’Connell Sherman co-invented the stain and water repellant treatment ScotchgardTM while at 3M, a discovery that has been worth more than $300 million to the company. She and Samuel Smith were working on a fluorochemical rubber for jet fuel hoses when they noticed the substance repelled both water and oily liquids. Seeing the potential in the material, they teamed up to develop a series of stain repellants for a variety of fabrics, culminating in ScotchgardTM.

Cardiovascular drugs Cozaar® and Eliquis®

Ruth Wexler has made a mark on the field of cardiovascular drugs, with the development of Cozaar®, an angiotensin II receptor antagonist, as well as Eliquis®, a factor Xa inhibitor and novel anticoagulant. She has more than 190 papers and patents to her name, with more on the way as she continues to work as an Executive Director at Bristol-Myers Squibb, leading their medicinal chemistry efforts directed at cardiovascular diseases. In 2014 she was inducted into the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry’s MEDI Hall of Fame.

Celebrate the Second Century of Polymer Science

A century ago, in 1920, Professor Hermann Staudinger published his paper, “Über Polymerization,” which helped refine the term ‘polymerization’ and introduced the view of polymers as high molecular weight molecules.

ACS Publications is pleased to recognize the publication of this landmark paper 100 years later. To commemorate Staudinger’s work, the theme of the ACS Spring 2020 National Meeting & Expo in Philadelphia was scheduled to be “Macromolecular Chemistry: The Second Century.” The ACS Spring National Meeting has since been canceled out of concern for the health & safety of the global chemistry community. Programming around this theme will likely be rescheduled.

To help continue celebrations of the Second Century of Polymer Science, both ACS Macro Letters and Macromolecules encourages you to read this series of editorial and viewpoints.

ACS Macro Letters will “look into the future with a series of forward-looking Viewpoints in 2020 authored by prominent mid-career and emerging young investigators,” says Editor-in-Chief Stuart J. Rowan in his Volume 9, Issue 1 Editorial. More than 50 viewpoints will be published throughout the year.

In Macromolecules, Editor-in-Chief Marc Hillmyer will curate a “series of editorials from highly respected polymer scientists that comment on Macromolecules articles that have been especially influential or impactful” according to his Volume 53, Issue 1 Editorial. This series of editorials will highlight how the journal has truly played a role in the understanding of polymers, and more importantly how it continues to be a home for amazing advances in the field. Professor Hillmyer invites additional nominations for guest editorials to publish at the end of this year. These are due by February 28, 2020, to hillmyer@umn.edu.

Read the ACS Macro Letters Viewpoints:

Bookmark this page, as it will be continuously updated.***
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Photochemical Reaction Orthogonality in Modern Macromolecular Science
Nathaniel Corrigan and Cyrille Boyer
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Heterogenous Reversible Deactivation Radical Polymerization at Room Temperature. Recent Advances and Future Opportunities
Dongdong Liu, Jun He, Li Zhang, and Jianbo Tan
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Toward Artificial Life-Supporting Macromolecules
Jean-François Lutz
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Opportunities in the Physics of Sequence-Defined Polymers
Sarah L. Perry and Charles E. Sing
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: High Refractive Index Polymers from Elemental Sulfur for Infrared Thermal Imaging and Optics
Tristan S. Kleine, Richard S. Glass, Dennis L. Lichtenberger, Michael E. Mackay, Kookheon Char, Robert A. Norwood and Jeffrey Pyun
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Block Copolymer Particles: Tuning Shape, Interfaces, and Morphology
Jaeman J. Shin, Eun Ji Kim, Kang Hee Ku, Young Jun Lee, Craig J. Hawker and Bumjoon J. Kim
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Achieving Ultrahigh Molecular Weights with Reversible Deactivation Radical Polymerization
Zesheng An
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Fundamentals for the Future of Macromolecular Nitroxide Radicals
Shaoyang Wang, Alexandra D. Easley and Jodie L. Lutkenhaus
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Polymers from Lignocellulosic Biomass. Current Challenges and Future Opportunities
Robert M. O’Dea, Jordan A. Willie and Thomas H. Epps III
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Synthetic Protein Hydrogels
Ying Li, Bin Xue and Yi Cao
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Macromolecular Materials for Additive Manufacturing
Benjaporn Narupai and Alshakim Nelson
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Recent Advances and Opportunities for Mixed Ion and Charge Conducting Polymers
Jaeyub Chung, Aditi Khot, Brett M. Savoie and Bryan W. Boudouris
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Modeling and Simulation of Macromolecules with Hydrogen Bonds: Challenges, Successes, and Opportunities
Arthi Jayaraman

100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Poly(N‑isopropylacrylamide)-Based Thermally Responsive Micelles
Guo-Feng Luo, Wei-Hai Chen, and Xian-Zheng Zhang
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Re-Engineering Cellular Interfaces with Synthetic Macromolecules Using Metabolic Glycan Labeling
Ruben M. F. Tomás and Matthew I. Gibson
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Polymerization of Cumulated Bonds: Isocyanates, Allenes, and Ketenes as Monomers  
Sarah M. Mitchell, K. A. Niradha Sachinthani, Randinu Pulukkody, and Emily B. Pentzer
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Integrating Chemistry and Engineering to Enable Additive Manufacturing with High-Performance Polymers
Andrew J. Boydston, Jianxun Cui, Chang-Uk Lee, Brock E. Lynde, and Cody A. Schilling
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Engineering Supramolecular Materials for Responsive Applications—Design and Functionality
Chase B. Thompson and LaShanda T. J. Korley
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Enabling Advances in Fluorescence Microscopy Techniques
Zhe Qiang and Muzhou Wang
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Needs for Plastics Packaging Circularity
Stijn Billiet and Scott R. Trenor
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Single-Molecule Studies of Synthetic Polymers
Danielle J. Mai and Charles M. Schroeder
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Piezoelectrically Mediated Mechanochemical Reactions for Adaptive Materials
Jorge Ayarza, Zhao Wang, Jun Wang, Chao-Wei Huang, and Aaron P. Esser-Kahn
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Integrated Membrane Systems
John R. Hoffman and William A. Phillip
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Biological Stimuli-Sensitive Polymer Prodrugs and Nanoparticles for Tumor-Specific Drug Delivery
Huanli Sun and Zhiyuan Zhong
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Toward Catalytic Chemical Recycling of Waste (and Future) Plastics
Joshua C. Worch and Andrew P. Dove
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Block Copolymers with Tethered Acid Groups: Challenges and Opportunities
Sejong Kang and Moon Jeong Park
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Soft Materials for Microbial Bioelectronics
Chia-Ping Tseng, Jonathan J. Silberg, George N. Bennett, and Rafael Verduzco
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: The Role of Hydrophobicity in Polymer Phenomena
Jeffrey C. Foster, Irem Akar, Marcus C. Grocott, Amanda K. Pearce, Robert T. Mathers, and Rachel K. O’Reilly
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: The Past, Present, and Future of Stereocontrolled Vinyl Polymerization
Aaron J. Teator, Travis P. Varner, Phil C. Knutson, Cole C. Sorensen, and Frank A. Leibfarth
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Degradable Polymers from Radical Ring-Opening Polymerization: Latest Advances, New Directions, and Ongoing Challenges
Théo Pesenti and Julien Nicolas
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Re-examining Single-Chain Nanoparticles
Ruiwen Chen and Erik B. Berda
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Polymeric Materials by In Situ Liquid-Phase Transmission Electron Microscopy
Lucas R. Parent, Karthikeyan Gnanasekaran, Joanna Korpanty, and Nathan C. Gianneschi
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Redefining Sustainable Polymers
Danielle E. Fagnani, Jessica L. Tami, Graeme Copley, Mackenzie N. Clemons, Yutan D. Y. L. Getzler, and Anne J. McNeil
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Solid Polymer Electrolytes in Cathode Electrodes for Lithium Batteries. Current Challenges and Future Opportunities
Shrayesh N. Patel
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: Attractive Soft Matter: Association Kinetics, Dynamics, and Pathway Complexity in Electrostatically Coassembled
Micelles Christian C. M. Sproncken, J. Rodrigo Magana, and Ilja K. Voets
100th Anniversary of Macromolecular Science Viewpoint: User’s Guide to Supramolecular Peptide–Polymer Conjugates
Julia Y. Rho and Sébastien Perrier

Read the Macromolecules Editorials:

Bookmark this page, as it will be continuously updated.
Block Copolymers: Long-Term Growth with Added Value
Timothy P. Lodge
Discovery of the RAFT Process and Its Impact on Radical Polymerization
Krzysztof Matyjaszewski
Twisted Crystals and the Origin of Banding in Spherulites of Semicrystalline Polymers
Andrew J. Lovinger
The First Dive into the Mechanism and Kinetics of ATRP
Kathryn L. Beers
Morphology and Structure-Property Relationships in Random Ionomers: Two Foundational Articles from Macromolecules
Richard A. Register
Herbert Morawetz and the First Nonradiative Energy Transfer Studies of Miscibility in Polymer Blends
Mitchell A. Winnik
Bioerodible Hydrogels Based on Photopolymerized Poly(ethylene glycol)-co-poly(α-hydroxy acid) Diacrylate Macromers
Laura J. Macdougall and Kristi Anseth
The ABCs of Block Polymers
Alice B. Chang and Frank S. Bates
The Beauty of Branching in Polymer Science
Soyoung E. Seo and Craig J. Hawker
Discovery of Syndiotactic Polystyrene: Its Synthesis and Impact
Lisa Saunders Baugh and Donald N. Schulz
A Thorny Problem? Spinodal Decomposition in Polymer Blends
Julia S. Higgins and João T. Cabral
Diverse Morphologies of Block Copolymers by Blending with Homo (and Co) Polymers
Chungryong Choi, Seonghyeon Ahn, and Jin Kon Kim
Can Self-Assembly Address the Permeability/Selectivity Trade-Offs in Polymer Membranes?
Joshua D. Moon, Benny D. Freeman, Craig J. Hawker, and Rachel A. Segalman
Organocatalysis: A Paradigm Shift in the Synthesis of Aliphatic Polyesters and Polycarbonates
Kazuki Fukushima and Kyoko Nozaki
A Curated Experimental Compilation Analyzed by Theory Is More than a Review
Karen I. Winey and Amalie L. Frischknecht
Synergistic Advances in Living Cationic and Radical Polymerizations
Masami Kamigaito and Mitsuo Sawamoto
Global and Local Views of the Glass Transition in Mixtures
Jane E. G. Lipson
Polymer Mechanochemistry and the Emergence of the Mechanophore Concept
Guillaume De Bo
Harnessing Noncovalent Interactions to Drive Single-Chain Nanoparticle Formation
Lei Liu and Samuel H. Gellman
Polyion Complexes via Electrostatic Interaction of Oppositely Charged Block Copolymers
Jing Sun and Zhibo Li
Critical Strains Determine the Tensile Deformation Mechanism in Semicrystalline Polymers
Yongfeng Men
Marc Hillmyer
The image of Hermann Staudinger is from the ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv is used under a creative commons license.

Play Now: Organic Letters’ Chemical Pursuits Trivia

If you follow Organic Letters on Twitter, you know there’s been a lot of buzz around the Chemical Pursuits Trivia Tournament. For those wondering what it is and how to take part, we’ll outline everything you need to know here!

Organic LettersChemical Pursuits is a month-long trivia tournament from July 15-August 16. Throughout the tournament, weekly rounds will open from Monday at 10 am – Friday at 10 am EDT.  The two participants with the highest scores at the end of the tournament will win an Amazon Echo.

Each quiz has five, multiple-choice questions, each of which has a 15 second time limit.

  • Round 1: Concluded July 19th
  • Round 2: Play at any time from until now July 26th at 10 am EDT
  • Round 3: Live July 29th at 10 am EDT
  • Round 4: Live August 5th at 10 am EDT
  • Round 5: Live August 12th at 10 am EDT

Follow Organic Letters on Twitter for weekly round links and winner announcements!

The Remarkable Life and Work of Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898–1979)

Katharine Burr Blodgett was born on January 10, 1898, and lived a privileged, but not necessarily carefree, childhood. The family had employed servants in their original Schenectady home, which was located in the historic Stockade district. Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Blodgett moved with the children to New York City where they lived for 3 years. Mrs. Blodgett believed there would be greater opportunities in a big city than in a smaller town like Schenectady. According to her aunt, Katharine was already reading at age two.

A Young Scientist’s Education: Bryn Mawr Years

In the autumn of 1913, Katharine enrolled in Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia. The college was prominent among women’s liberal arts colleges and had been founded in 1885 as “an institution of learning for the advanced education of women which should afford them ‘all the advantages of a college education that are so freely offered to young men.’” One of the policies instituted by the college trustees was “to organize no department in which they could not provide for graduate as well as undergraduate study,” indicating that the faculty had advanced degrees.

Of the 10 science and mathematics faculty, 3 were women and all had doctoral degrees. According to the Bryn Mawr College Calendar for 1913, chemistry instruction was under the direction of Dr. Frederick H. Getman, Dr. Roger F. Brunel, and Dr. Annie L. Macleod, who was in charge of demonstrations. Physics instruction was under the direction of Dr. William B. Huff, Dr. James Barnes, and Miss Mable K. Frehafer, who was in charge of demonstrations.

Katharine, now a “Mawrter,” was especially drawn to the courses taught by Professors Charlotte Scott and James Barnes, in mathematics and physics, respectively. It was with Barnes that she studied optics, a subject that she would continue to develop throughout her career. Barnes also suggested that she continue in science after her college degree.

On campus, Katharine took on a number of leadership roles including treasurer and secretary of the Science Club, treasurer of the Christian Association, and manager of track meets, in addition to her participation in athletic activities like swimming, water polo, and hockey. She was also known, along with her mates from the Class of 1917, as somewhat of a prankster!

During this period, as the Great War raged in Europe, the United States made preparations to enter the conflict in the spring of 1917. Indeed, the College’s publications at that time reflected wartime concerns, including calls for students to participate in activities related to national defense.

A Wartime Master’s Degree

In the fall of 1917, Katharine traveled to the Midwest to enter a master’s degree program in physics at the University of Chicago (UC). There, in the Ryerson Physical Laboratory, she carried out research under the direction of a young faculty member, Professor Harvey Brace Lemon. Lemon was conducting research on the use of charcoal for the adsorption of gases, a project aimed at improving the efficacy of gas masks. This work was performed in cooperation with the government’s Chemical Warfare Service.

The First World War came to be known as the Chemists’ War, in part because of the harmful or incapacitating lethal gases—including tear gases, chlorine, phosgene, diphosgene, and mustard gas—that were deployed on the battlefield. Although early WWI masks were treated with sodium thiosulfate to neutralize chlorine gas, “the crude personal protection devices gave way to more advanced masks that were connected to a canister filled with activated charcoal to filter poison gases.”

Katharine completed her degree in the spring of 1918, just months before Professor Lemon was commissioned as a captain in the Army’s Ordnance Department. Her newly gained knowledge of surface phenomena, adsorption, and physical measurements would prove useful for her subsequent work at GE.

The June 1919 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine, under the headline, “Gas Mask Work at the University,” stated that “Now that the censorship on scientific work connected with war problems is being lifted it becomes possible to announce the publication of work done on our campus which has heretofore been known only by rumor.” Blodgett’s papers on charcoal adsorption were published in 1919, once they had been approved for release by the director of the Chemical Warfare Service at the end of the war.

Read the full chapter.

 This post is an excerpt from The Remarkable Life and Work of Katharine Burr Blodgett (1898–1979)‘, The Posthumous Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Volume 2. Ladies in Waiting for the Nobel Prize.
Chapter Author: Margaret E. Schott
Volume Editors: Vera V. Mainz, E. Thomas Strom
Publication Date (Web): December 14, 2018
Copyright © 2018 American Chemical Society

Celebrate IYPT with ACS

In 2019, ACS is joining in with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1869 publication of Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The United Nations International Year of The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019) is an opportunity to look both back and forward. We can look back at the remarkable work chemists have done discovering, organizing, understanding, and manipulating elements over the course of chemistry’s comparatively brief history. We can also look ahead to all the discoveries yet to be made – and the ongoing debate about the best way to organize our knowledge about the elements.

The mission of the ACS is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. That’s why ACS will be celebrating IYPT 2019 all year long with research, history, giveaways, events, webinars and more. Check out a list of all our major activities below. Bookmark this page, as new resources will be added throughout the year.


Fall 2019 National Meeting

  • #IYPT2019 Social Media Wall
  • Periodic Table giveaways at the ACS Booth
  • CCA Presidential Outreach Event

IYPT Community Events

IYPT Merchandise

Learn more and get additional resources on the official ACS IYPT site.


Learn About the History of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

In 2019, marks the 150th anniversary of the most beloved icon in chemistry, Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. To honor this milestone, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed 2019 “The United Nations International Year of The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements” (IYPT 2019). The American Chemical Society (ACS), the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and scientific societies around the world will all be celebrating with special events, contests, and more.

Celebrate this landmark anniversary by learning about key years in the history of the periodic table, drawn from the official ACS 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) 12-Month Calendar.


Antoine Lavoisier, now known as the ‘father of modern chemistry,’ publishes a list of 33 elements or “simple substances,” as he calls them. Although his list includes things such as heat and light, it is a major departure from previous thinking about elements. For Lavoisier, an element represents the final stage of chemical decomposition. This view moves away from earlier metaphysical notions about the nature of elements and emphasizes what can be observed and measured.


John Dalton, a Manchester schoolteacher and a Quaker, revives the atomic theory of ancient Greek philosophers while making it quantitative. Dalton also provides a new list of elements but his includes the relative weights of atoms of each element compared with an atom of hydrogen, which is assigned a weight of one unit. This development provides a basis from which other chemists can begin to discern relationships between different elements and is an essential step in the development of the periodic table.


Wolfgang Döbereiner, a chemist working in Jena, Germany, draws on John Dalton’s atomic weights to discover triads, which are relationships among several groups of three elements whereby one of the three elements is the average of the two others in two respects. For example, a sodium atom has about the same weight as the averaged weights of lithium and potassium. Also, sodium’s chemical reactivity is the average of lithium and potassium. Triads thus hint at mathematical relationships between different elements, representing a foreshadowing of the discovery of chemical periodicity.


Over a period of about five years, multiple scientists independently develop significant precursors to the periodic table. The first is French geologist Alexandre-Emile Béguyer De Chancourtois, who arranges the elements in a line in order of increasing atomic weight. This line is then arranged in a helical fashion around a metal cylinder so that similar elements fall along vertical lines drawn along the length of the cylinder. Soon after, John Alexander Reina Newlands and William Odling, working independently in England, publish two-dimensional periodic tables, as does Gustavus Heinrichs, a Danish exile working in the United States. None of these systems receive much credit for a variety of reasons both scientific and sociological.


Julius Lothar Meyer, a German chemist, publishes a number of periodic tables that represent the discovery of a fully mature table system. However, although he successfully accommodates most of the more than 60 then-known elements, Lothar Meyer fails to predict any new or missing elements, with one exception. He made a tentative prediction for the existence of a single element that he believed would have an atomic weight of 44.55. This element would eventually be discovered in Sweden and named scandium. Its weight when first measured was 44.6.


Dmitri Mendeleev, a Siberian by birth, working in St. Petersburg, Russia, publishes his first of many periodic tables and predicts the existence of four new elements that he provisionally names eka-aluminum, eka-silicon, eka-boron, and eka-manganese. Within fifteen years, the first three of these elements are discovered by other chemists and are called respectively gallium, scandium, and germanium, thus serving to solidify Mendeleev’s reputation as the leading discoverer of the periodic table. The fourth of his initial predictions is synthesized in 1937 and named technetium.


Chemical Reviews. March 8, 2017. Volume 117, Issue 5. Halogen chemistry plays a central role in the manufacture of various chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and polymers, and has potential applications in natural-gas upgrading. Having a closed halogen loop allows these processes to operate efficiently and sustainably. To this end, the design of suitable heterogeneous catalysts is of key importance.


In three successive years, X-rays, radioactivity, and the electron are discovered, all of which have a profound impact on the study of the elements, the periodic table, and chemistry in general. X-rays lead to an experimental method to precisely identify each element. The discoveries of radioactivity and the electron show atoms are not indivisible as Dalton had supposed, but have a sub-structure. In 1900, Max Planck introduced his quantum of action. These discoveries together would soon explain why elements fall into groups on the periodic table.


In 1913, Niels Bohr, working in Copenhagen, publishes the first explanation of why certain elements fall into particular groups in the periodic table. This feature arises because of the analogous electron arrangements in concentric shells around the nucleus of an atom. Between 1913 and 1914, Henry Moseley, in Manchester and later Oxford, establishes experimentally that elements are more accurately ordered according to an ordinal number, subsequently named “atomic number,” than if ordered according to atomic weight, as had been the custom up to this point. Moseley’s method also provides the means to uniquely identify any particular element, as well as indicating the number of elements that remained to be discovered between the naturally occurring elements from hydrogen (Z = 1) and uranium (Z = 92).


The first artificially produced element is discovered in Palermo, Sicily by Emilio Segrè and coworkers. This element had been synthesized in a particle accelerator at the University of California, Berkeley, where Segrè had worked, before being sent to Italy for analysis. This was to be the first of what are now about 30 artificially produced elements, including promethium (Z = 61) and astatine (Z = 85), in addition to 26 transuranic elements. The most recent discoveries of such elements are nihonium (Z = 103), moscovium (Z = 105), tennessine (Z = 117), and oganesson (Z = 118).


The first transuranic element, synthesized at the University of California, Berkeley by Edwin Mattison McMillan and Philip Hauge Abelson, is neptunium. This is followed by the synthesis of plutonium by Glenn T. Seaborg in 1941 in the same laboratory. Seaborg would contribute to the synthesis of a total of 10 such transuranic elements, including element 106, which is named seaborgium in his honor. He would also propose a modification to the periodic table that features the actinides as part of the f-block rather than as d-block elements. Similar arrangements were independently proposed earlier by Alfred Werner and Charles Janet.


The periodic table is by no means a closed subject. Although it now stands complete for the first time since its discovery, attempts to synthesize elements 119 and 120 are being actively pursued. If discovered, these elements would form the beginning of a new eighth period. In addition, debate continues over the placement of several elements, including thecomposition of group 3, and over whether there is an optimal form of the periodic table. A good candidate to fill this role might be Charles Janet’s left-step table, which displays greater regularity than the conventional table, as well as being more in keeping with the presumed quantum mechanical foundations of the periodic system.

Learn more about the official ACS 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) 12-Month Calendar.

ACS Honors Historic Plutonium Isotope Production Site

The American Chemical Society designated Aiken, South Carolina’s Savannah River Site (SRS) as the newest National Historic Chemical Landmark, recognizing its role in the production of a plutonium isotope that proved essential to space exploration.

Beginning in 1960, SRS produced almost all the plutonium-238 used in a class of nuclear batteries that provide U.S. spacecraft with the heat and electricity necessary to power and maintain research instruments in the cold of deep space.

While production of plutonium-238 at SRS ended in 1988, the stockpile of the material it produced has continued to be used. And of course, the material aboard launched spacecraft, such as the Voyager 2 probe, continues to provide power as these craft travel the far reaches of our solar system.

A ceremony marking this achievement was held on Nov. 1 at the SRS Heritage Museum in Aiken, marking the site as South Carolina’s first-ever National Historic Chemical Landmark. The celebration, along with a technical symposium on the production and use of plutonium-238, was held alongside the Southeastern Regional Meeting of ACS.
The new Landmark was mentioned on Episode 1 of Orbitals, ACS’ new monthly podcast. More information about the site will be posted on the Landmarks website.

Celebrate 2019: The International Year of the Periodic Table With a Calendar Honoring the Table’s History

Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the most beloved icon in chemistry, Dmitri Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. To honor this milestone, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed 2019 as “The United Nations International Year of The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements” (IYPT 2019). The American Chemical Society (ACS), the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), and scientific societies around the world will all be celebrating with special events, contests, and more.

The elegance of the Periodic Table’s design, its predictive power, and clear style has inspired thousands of products. These include popular culture variations of the Periodic Table, clothes, shoes, jewelry, dinnerware, and more.

Start your year-long celebration of the Periodic Table by purchasing the limited edition 2019 IYPT 12-Month Calendar, where the most important milestones in the still-evolving story of a scientific icon are shown in a timeline from the 1700s to today.

Get more information about the Periodic Table and the 150th anniversary of its publication.