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CHF staff and scholars provide a behind-the-scenes guide to activities at CHF, with reflections on science education, provocative explorations of chemistry in the wider world, and much more.

This page holds archived blog posts. Visit our Tumblr page to see recent content and to join the conversation.

All posts in History

Notebooks Can Be Beautiful!

Chemists’ notebooks are the movie stars of CHF’s archival collections. Not only do they open up a window into the thought processes of their owners, but they are frequently embellished with sketches of those thoughts.

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Posted In: History

There's Always Room

Jell-O is having a mini-moment. Its cheerful, jaunty colors can be found in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Weddings, and even a spread in Vogue. If this is a fad, it wouldn't be the first; molded gelatin has a surprisingly long history.

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Posted In: History

The (Prehistoric) History of the Elements

One second after the Big Bang, our universe consisted only of protons, neutrons, electrons, and other elementary particles. From the first three minutes to the first 20 minutes of our universe, the hydrogen nuclei combined to make helium and even a little lithium. The story of the heavier elements, however, is a little more explosive.

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Posted In: History

First Person: Henry Earl Lumpkin

One luxury of an oral history is the space it permits for exploring lesser-known, but no less important, parts of a subject’s life. Henry Earl Lumpkin, for example, who was interviewed in 1992 for the American Society for Mass Spectrometry project, had a long and distinguished career in the field. But during World War II, he also served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, a fore-runner of the U.S. Air Force.

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Posted In: History

A Look at the Helfand Collection, Part II

Inspired by “Health for Sale,” the current Philadelphia Museum of Art show featuring prints and posters donated by Dr. William Helfand, on Tuesday we started examining one of the images from CHF’s own Helfand Collection.

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Posted In: History

Vacation Thursday

Nothing much to report this week, mainly because I’m on vacation. In case you are curious, the location is Lake Sebago, Maine where my wife and I have been going for over 30 years to escape the pressures and realities of contemporary life.

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Posted In: History

A Look at the Helfand Collection

Dr. William Helfand is a longtime collector of prints and posters relating to the history of medicine. “Health for Sale,” an exhibit highlighting some of the gems of his collection, is currently delighting audiences at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dr. Helfand is also a longtime friend and supporter of CHF, and has donated a number of unique pieces to our collection. Today Periodic Tabloid examines one of them.

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Posted In: History

Collective Voice: The Magic of Paris

June's conference "Renewing the Heritage of Chemistry" was an incredible opportunity in itself, but while in Paris we also discovered another treasure: the Librairie Alain Brieux, an antique and rare book shop that specializes in science and medicine. Robert Anderson let Rosie Cook and me in on its secrets.

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Posted In: History | Technology

No Dark Corners

A May episode of Distillations, CHF’s award-winning podcast, focuses on the science and history of gas lighting. This week, we were delighted to find a cartoon in the collection from that same history.

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Posted In: History | Technology

Holiday Video Blog: Fireworks

Fireworks being the most watched chemical reaction in popular culture, July 4th presents a prime opportunity to talk up electrons and elements to your friends. Seriously, this is one day people will listen to you. Make sure you’ve got it right.

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