A Brief History of CHF
Ground Floor of First National Bank, ca. 1911. Photograph by William Rau. Chemical Heritage Foundation Archives, CHF Collections.
CHF’s programs and activities have evolved throughout the years, but its mission—to advance public understanding of chemistry and related sciences—has remained constant.
In 1982 the Center for the History of Chemistry was launched by the University of Pennsylvania and the American Chemical Society. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers became the third sponsor in 1984.
By 1987 the center was incorporated as a nonprofit organization called the National Foundation for the History of Chemistry. It was renamed the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in 1992 to better reflect its interdisciplinary nature and the widening scope of its activities.
Founding president Arnold Thackray set CHF on an ambitious course. He moved the fledgling organization from two basement rooms on the University of Pennsylvania campus to the heart of Old City, Philadelphia, and shaped it into the premier institution preserving the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences and technologies.
In 2007 Thomas R. Tritton took the helm as president and CEO, guiding CHF with a steady hand through the worst economic downturn since the 1930s and leading it to renewed economic health while greatly increasing public programs and outreach.
In August 2013 Carsten Reinhardt became CHF’s third president, following a global search. Formerly a professor of the history of science at Bielefeld University, Germany, Reinhardt has extensively researched and published on the impact of chemistry on society through topics including the history of industrial research, the emergence of instrumentation, and chemistry’s links to physics, biology, medicine, and technology. Reinhardt was an Edelstein Fellow at CHF in 1998–99.
Meet the people who shaped and supported CHF in its earliest days.