IUPAC AND CHEMISTRY:
A CENTURY OF HISTORY
Danielle FAUQUE (GHDSO, U-Paris Sud/ Paris Saclay, FR), Brigitte VAN TIGGELEN (UCL, Louvain-laneuve, BE and Director for European Operations, Science History Institute, Philadelphia, USA)
Less than a century ago, IUPAC was born, with the main purpose of enabling communication between chemists worldwide. Emphasis was thus put on calibration, normalization and nomenclature to facilitate comparison and discussions inside the community, as different regions of the world were sometimes using different standards or terminologies, which made collective progress cumbersome and difficult. Furthermore, as chemical instrumentation continuously evolved towards more precision and more tools were created to assess the chemical and physical properties of any given substance, the need for negotiating and building consensus on these new techniques and the related processes of calibration kept growing. Last but not least, conceived as an international organization, IUPAC was born in the aftermath of the First World War that deeply shook the belief in the universalism of science in general and chemistry in particular, and the peaceful use thereof for the benefit of the whole of mankind. By holding regular meetings all over the world, IUPAC contributed to create and sustain an international community that dealt with all aspects of chemistry, pure as well as applied.
A hundred years later, IUPAC and chemistry are jointly facing world challenges such as globalization, energy crisis, climate change and environmental issues. The 2019 IUPAC congress is thus a suitable time to commemorate the centennial organization, but also evaluate the impact of IUPAC on the shaping of the chemical sciences, broadly construed. It is timely to have a critical and thorough look back with the purpose of equipping the community for the future.
The legacy is a very rich one indeed; over a century of activity and growth, IUPAC has influenced a very reactive field of knowledge, since chemistry has reinvented itself several times since 1919, reorganizing its structure through the creation of new sub-disciplines, fostering new topics at the crossroads of well rooted specialties, and forging multidisciplinary communities tackling contemporary problems, like the creation of new materials, or the environmental studies. Along with its constant effort to regulate and adjust the language of chemistry to the new developments, IUPAC has also been instrumental in supporting teaching, and the growth of chemistry in less wealthy countries.
2019 is also the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev’s successful attempt to arrange the chemical elements according to their atomic weights, into what we call the Periodic Table (PT). While IUPAC is not concerned with the development of the PT, the organization plays a decisive role in filling it. Indeed, since 1919, IUPAC is the place where claims for new elements are made, and controversies are resolved, where the naming is decided as well as the different characteristics established.
Because this topic is of wide interest to the IUPAC community at large, and could even be open to a wider and general public, the sessions do not aim at being specialized in history of chemistry. On the contrary, it is our wish to bring together historians of chemistry, and chemists, to tackle the interwoven evolution of IUPAC and chemistry, and we intend to build a network prior to the meeting itself, in particular connecting to those chemists or groups of chemists who have a “long history” within IUPAC and can contribute with their testimony and experience. According to this aim, sessions will include both invited and submitted papers.
3 half day sessions including a Special Periodic Table Symposium (4 hours)
The proposal on history of chemistry for the IUPAC 2019 Congress in Paris is articulated in two parts: “IUPAC’s legacy to Chemistry” and “IUPAC and the heritage of chemistry”, to which is added a special symposium to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table.