A Chemical Legacy

Zewail (standing, from left), Smithies, Rumy, and David Schwartz (seated) won Heritage Day awards. Alice Schwartz is not pictured.

June 15, 2009 - Philadelphia, PA

From Chemical & Engineering News, June 15, 2009

by Marc Reisch

At what has become an annual rite of spring, the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) hosted awards ceremonies on May 14 for five science and business leaders at its eighth annual Heritage Day in Philadelphia.

The festivities began with an 11:30 a.m. reception for the award winners and lasted past 9 p.m. First up, Ahmed M. Zewail, the 1999 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, received the Othmer Gold Medal at a luncheon in his honor. More than 160 people attended to hear the California Institute of Technology chemistry and physics professor speak about his fascination with chemistry and the invisible world of chemical reactions that he helped elucidate with an ultrafast laser technique that created the field of femtochemistry.

During an afternoon awards ceremony, nearly 130 people watched as David Schwartz, a founder of reagents and clinical diagnostics firm Bio-Rad Laboratories, accepted the Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award for Supporting Industries, which was bestowed upon him and his wife and Bio-Rad cofounder, Alice Schwartz. David spoke about his and Alice's luck in being in the right place at the right time for business success.

Also at the afternoon ceremony, 2007 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine Oliver Smithies received the American Institute of Chemists' Gold Medal. Smithies told the audience how he "accidentally" improved gel electrophoresis, a process of separating proteins or nucleic acids by using starch.

Then, after a cocktail reception, about 115 stalwart diners feted Zsolt Rumy, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of carbon fiber maker Zoltek, who received the Chemists' Club's Winthrop-Sears Medal. Rumy, a Hungary-born entrepreneur, described his journey from working as a process engineer at Monsanto to heading his own company and his entrepreneurial endeavors at the head of his own company to lower the cost of carbon fibers.

Zewail is the 12th recipient of the Othmer Gold Medal, which was set up in 1997 to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to chemistry and science. Sponsors of the medal include not only CHF, but also the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Chemists' Club, and the Société de Chimie Industrielle.

Thomas R. Tritton, CHF president and CEO, noted that Zewail "moved beyond speculation by inventing the laser-based tools that allow chemists to study reactions in real time." Tritton also noted that Zewail "is a tireless advocate for science education for the entire world."...

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