The American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society (ACS) founded in 1876 in New York City. John W. Draper, a scientist interested in photochemistry, served as first president.
A wave of euphoria was sweeping across the United States early in 1876 as the countdown to the country’s centennial continued towards July 4. Preliminary celebrations, such as the Centennial of the Battle of Bunker Hill, had already taken place a year earlier. But the keystone event in the celebration of the nation’s centennial birthday would be the massive International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, set to open on May 10. It was a time to reflect back on a tumultuous century of political events. More importantly, it was a time for the United States to take its place on the world stage, showcasing technological achievements that indicated a bright future for American industry.
One of the more unusual events at the exposition was a demonstration by Alexander Graham Bell of a device that allowed the human voice to be transmitted over a wire. Bell had first achieved that feat on March 10, with the famous message to his assistant, Mr. Watson. A month later, as Bell was preparing his equipment for the Philadelphia exposition, a small group of chemists was quietly meeting on April 6 at the University Building of what is now New York University. In contrast to the forthcoming centennial exposition, this meeting attracted no attention from the media, and the only account of its transactions occurred in an obscure chemical journal. That night its exhausted organizer would write simply in his dairy, “Organization of Chem. Society in eveg.”
Visit National Historic Chemical Landmarks to read more about the founding of the American Chemical Society.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program