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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

The Geography of the Semiconductor: Lessons from Herman Fialkov

The story of Herman Fialkov, who died earlier this year, provides an exemplary lesson on semiconductor electronics and venture capital on both the East and West coasts.

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Posted In: History | Technology

First Person: Hidden Stories

First Person mainly deals with the subjects of oral histories at CHF, but I thought it might be an interesting change of pace to take you behind the scenes of the oral history process. Today I’ll be highlighting the people and processes that make those oral histories possible.

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Posted In: Education | History

Collective Voice: More Martian Science!

Did you know the analytical instruments contained within Curiosity have a direct link to the historical instruments in the collection here at CHF?

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Posted In: History | Technology

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Our vital fluids are more than just bodily emissions—they can also be considered the purest expressions of our humanity, at least metaphorically speaking. In a three-part podcast and video series, the Distillations team checks out some of their lesser-known properties.

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The Age of Plastic

In June I attended the “The Age of Plastic,” a Smithsonian symposium which drew historians, conservators, artists, and industrial scientists all eager to discuss the implications of humanity’s growing reliance on synthetic materials.

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Collective Voice: The 12,000 Pounds That Changed History

Today Periodic Tabloid welcomes guest blogger Ashley Levine. Levine participated in the authentication of a shield Willard Libby used in research on carbon dating, which won him a 1960 Nobel Prize. The instrument was donated to CHF by the Department of Homeland Security in February 2012.

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Posted In: History | Technology

A History of Chemistry in Two Words

As fans of CHF no doubt know, alchemy was once the name given to “the science of matter;” only around the latter half of the sixteenth century did the term chemistry begin to appear in Western sources. The theories behind this shift in use, and the source of the root word – chem – nicely encapsulates the history of chemistry itself, and the questions that remain about its origins.

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Posted In: History

More Professional Firsts for Women

Yesterday Nancy Chang became the first woman to win the Biotechnology Heritage Award. But did you know that the world’s first chemist may have been a woman?

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Posted In: History

First Person: William McMillan

In the interest of history, chemist William McMillan wrote two volumes reflecting on his work in the Manhattan Project. But as of the date of his oral history—1999—those documents were still classified.

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Posted In: History | Policy | Technology

Collective Voice: The Balloon in Literature

To celebrate ballooning history this summer, CHF’s collections team is highlighting the ballooning postcards held by the Othmer Library of Chemical History. In this month’s Collective Voice we explore how balloons captured centuries of imagination—producing ideas more than just flights of fancy.

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Posted In: History | Technology