The Noyes Laboratory
Chemical sciences in the United States have been immeasurably strengthened by the important and continuing interdisciplinary research conducted by Noyes Laboratory scientists.
The principal occupant of Noyes Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been the Department of Chemistry. But Noyes Laboratory incorporated a groundbreaking design that provided excellent research and teaching facilities for hundreds of faculty and thousands of students. As such, Noyes also housed at various times the departments of Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Bacteriology, and the Illinois State Water Survey.
The roster of scientists who studied or taught at Noyes Laboratory reads like a who’s who of American chemistry. It includes ten Nobel Prizewinners; twenty-three presidents of the American Chemical Society; and twelve winners of the Priestley Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society (see below). The first African American to receive a doctoral degree in Chemistry did his research at Noyes Laboratory.
But the mere naming of prominent scientists who have been associated with Noyes Laboratory through its history does not detail the important research that has taken place within its walls. Such a list would include the development of NMR spectroscopy as a tool for chemists by Herbert Gutowsky, the elucidation of the theory of electron transfer by Rudolph Marcus, the development of Fourier-transform microwave spectrometry by William Flygare, advances in the field of chemical information by Marion Sparks, the pioneering research in coordination chemistry in the United States by John C. Bailar Jr., the discovery of the amino acid threonine by William C. Rose and its synthesis by Herbert Carter, and the work of Roger Adams on identifying the active ingredients in marijuana. Other advances that occurred at Noyes include the discovery of the synthetic sweetener cyclamate by Ludwig Audrieth and Michael Sveda, the discovery of lipoic acid by Irwin Gunsulas, the invention of high-intensity X-ray tubes by George Clark, and the seminal studies on air pollution by Henry Fraser Johnstone. The manufacture of fine chemicals took place at Noyes after the traditional source, Germany, dried up during the First World War. From that project two important series originated at Noyes Laboratory: Organic Syntheses, founded in 1921 and Organic Reactions, founded in 1942, both initiated by Roger Adams.
The American Chemical Society designated Noyes Laboratory a National Historic Chemical Landmark on September 14, 2002.
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Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program