The Celebration Begins: IYC 2011 Causes Reactions in Paris, Philadelphia

March 1, 2011 - New York, NY

From Chemical Engineering Progress, March 1, 2011, p. 61
By Neil Gussman, communications manager, Chemical Heritage Foundation

The International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011) is under way, following its official launch at two world-class events.

The celebration began Jan. 27–28, 2011, at the world headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, then moved to the U.S. for a week-long North American kick-off at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Philadelphia, PA. AIChE collaborated with CHF, the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Chemistry Council (ACC), and other organizations on the U.S. launch.

During the Paris festivities, attendees gathered at the Sorbonne to honor Marie Curie—the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and one of the scientists best known to laypeople around the world (see p. 72)—with discussions of her life and the challenges she overcame on her path to immortality. Speakers included Helene Langevin-Joliot, Curie’s granddaughter, who spoke about Curie and women’s contributions to chemistry.

In Paris, AIChE Secretary Kimberly Ogden and Treasurer Andre Da Costa joined scientists, engineers, industry leaders, Nobel laureates, and government officials for seminars, an exhibition, and other social and cultural events celebrating the role of chemistry in addressing societal challenges. Some of the talks also explored chemistry’s heritage. For example, Zhigang Shuai, professor of physical chemistry at Tsinghua Univ., Beijing, spoke about the history of chemistry in China up to the 17th century. Thomas Tritton, president and CEO of CHF, proposed a top ten list of the “rock stars of chemistry”—Marie Curie, John Dalton, Emil Fischer, Antoine Lavoisier, Justus Liebig, Dmitri Mendeleev, Linus Pauling, Joseph Priestley, Friedrich Wöhler, and Robert B. Woodward.

On Feb. 1, the CHF hosted more than 200 visitors, including members of AIChE’s Board of Directors, AIChE staff, and volunteer-leaders, at the opening-day festivities. At the introductory session, entitled “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions,” a panel of leaders from industry and academia, moderated by Daniel Nocera, professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discussed how the chemical enterprise could solve the problems that face the world in the 21st century: energy, water, food, and human health. (The two-hour session is available online by clicking the IYC 2011 banner at www.chemheritage.org.) The subsequent days featured events aimed at the general public.

* On Feb. 2, the CHF collaborated with Headhouse Books on a discussion of The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr. Chemist Joseph Rucker of Philadelphia’s Integral Molecular, Inc., led the discussion of the sense and sensibility of smell.

* On Feb. 3, professor and historical recreator James Armstead came to Philadelphia in the character of Percy Julian, the 20th-century chemist who was the subject of the PBS documentary titled Forgotten Genius. Armstead spoke to students at Philadelphia’s African-American Museum and at The College of Physicians.

* On Feb. 4, “Elemental Matters,” an exhibit of seven contemporary artists responding to the periodic table of elements, opened at the CHF’s Hach Gallery. More than 250 visitors met the artists, whose work will remain on display through Dec. 2011.

* On Feb. 5, more than 3,000 visitors to the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia’s largest science museum, received a hands-on tour of chemistry experiments through the ages.

Separate from these activities, CHF made chemistry part of Valentine’s Day by hosting “Science on Tap” at Philadelphia’s National Mechanics bar and restaurant on Feb. 14, featuring Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements. CHF has also launched “It’s Elemental,” a national high-school video competition that invites students to submit videos inspired by a single element for an interactive periodic table. Nearly 700 student teams submitted videos, displayed at www.chemheritage.org/elemental videos. . . .

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