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Chemical Heritage Foundation

Coordinates: 39°56′56″N 75°08′47″W / 39.948861°N 75.146526°W / 39.948861; -75.146526{{#coordinates:39.948861|-75.146526|type:landmark_globe:earth_region:US-PA|||||| |primary |name= }}

Chemical Heritage Foundation
Established 1982
Location 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is an organization in Philadelphia with a library, museum, archive, and conference center. It was founded in 1982 as a joint venture of the American Chemical Society and the University of Pennsylvania, as the Center for the History of Chemistry (CHOC). The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) became a co-founder in 1984. Renamed the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 1992, it moved to its current location, 315 Chestnut Street in Old City, in 1996.[1]

As one of the only organizations focusing on the history of chemistry, CHF is particularly interested in art and articles detailing the origins of early science and chemistry.[2] CHF’s varied fine-art holdings have considerable depth in the area of art depicting early modern alchemists. The Fisher Scientific International Collection and the Roy Eddleman Collection contain more than 90 paintings and 200 works on paper that illustrate alchemists' relentless pursuit of the philosophers' stone.[3]

CHF sponsors an exhibit of pioneering and landmark instruments used in scientific research. This exhibit is the result of efforts begun in 1991 by John Ferraro of the Argonne National Laboratory, and Robert Jarnutowski, a member of the Beckman Historical Committee.[4][5]


File:Mildred Cohn Heritage Day 2005 Awards HD2005-MildredCohn.tif
Mildred Cohn, Center for Oral History, Chemical Heritage Foundation

President Carsten Reinhardt articulates the mission of CHF as follows: "CHF fosters dialogue on science and technology in society. Our staff and fellows study the past in order to understand the present and inform the future. We focus on matter and materials and their effect on our modern world in territory ranging from the physical sciences and industries, through the chemical sciences and engineering, to the life sciences and technologies. We collect, preserve, and exhibit historical artifacts; engage communities of scientists and engineers; and tell the stories of the people behind breakthroughs and innovations."

The themes thus touched on include not only the history of chemistry but also the history of science, the history of technology, research and development, science and society, and others.


The foundation was founded in 1982,[6] and its first home was in several vacant basement rooms on the University of Pennsylvania campus.[7] Its founding president was Arnold Thackray, winner of the Dexter Award in 1983.[8] Thackray was succeeded by Thomas R. Tritton, under whose leadership the history of science museum opened to the public in its present location, and the fellowship program expanded.[9][10] Following a global search, Carsten Reinhardt, a professor of the history of science from Bielefeld University, Germany, was chosen in August 2013 as President and CEO of the organization.[11]


The free museum has a permanent exhibit called Making Modernity, the Arnold O. Beckman permanent exhibition. The exhibit includes scientific instruments and apparatus, rare books, and the personal papers of prominent scientists.

Scientific instruments include a 1934 Beckman Model G pH Meter, DuPont 900 Differential Thermal Analyzer, an early custom Electro-spray Ionization Mass Spectrometer, a 1947 Mettler B5 Single-Pan Balance, a 1963 Perkin-Elmer Model 125 Infrared Grating Spectrophotometer, and a c. 1980's Automated Peptide Synthesizer, among others.

The museum also has special exhibits and other ongoing exhibits.


Chemical Heritage Foundation is home to many significant collections relevant to the history of chemistry.

File:RCA Model EMT3 desktop electron microscope 2003 033
RCA Model EMT3 Desktop electron microscope, 1950, Artifacts, Chemical Heritage Foundation
File:Bakelite Buttons 2007.068 (66948).jpg
Catalin buttons, Artifacts, Chemical Heritage Foundation
  • The Othmer Library: In 2004 the Othmer Library became the steward of the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library, which represents one of the most comprehensive single deposits of books on the history of chemistry in the world. Roughly 6,000 titles in all, the Neville collection comprises materials that date from the late 15th century to the early 20th century and includes many of the most important works in the history of science and technology from this period.[12]
  • Center for Oral History: The Center for Oral History at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, administered by CHF’s Center for Contemporary History and Policy, aims to create a collection of comprehensive, professionally edited interviews with leading figures in chemistry and related fields.[13]
  • Archives: The Chemical Heritage Foundation collects, preserves, describes, and makes available the unique, unpublished materials that document the past 200 years of our chemical history. CHF actively collects archival materials from outstanding scientists, industries, and professional organizations. Spanning over 5,000 linear shelf feet, these collections are a major attraction for scholars of the history of chemical and molecular sciences.[14]
  • Photographs: CHF’s Image Archive contains an extensive collection of photographic prints, negatives, and slides reflecting the chemical history of the past century. CHF currently holds more than 20,000 images of notable chemists, laboratories, industrial scenes, historic gatherings, and chemical artifacts. These images hold considerable interest for scholars, journalists, and publishers who are active in chemistry-related fields. Informal snapshots and personal photos capture notable scientists at work and at play, such as the polymer chemists Wallace Carothers and Carl Shipp Marvel on a fishing trip and chemical engineer Donald Othmer and his wife on their wedding day. Highlights include:
    • Williams Haynes Portrait Collection: nearly 1,000 formal portraits of important chemists from the early 1900s
    • Travis Hignett Collection: images from the Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory (1920–1950)
    • Joseph Labovsky Collection: the history of nylon
    • Dow Historical Collection: 20th-century industrial images [15]
  • Fine Art: Strengths of CHF’s fine-art collection include the Fisher Scientific International Collection and the Roy Eddleman Collection, more than 90 paintings and 200 works on paper that unmask the world of the alchemists. In their pursuit of the elusive philosophers’ stone, alchemists created a body of knowledge about the material world through experiments and lab work, setting the stage for modern chemistry. Other highlights of the fine-art collection include oil paintings depicting such early modern chemical activities as distillation and metallurgy and watercolors showing the production process of the textile ramie.[3]
  • Artifacts: CHF collects three-dimensional artifacts to gain a representative group of material-culture objects that can be used as resources for both research and exhibition. CHF holds a variety of historical artifacts related to chemistry and chemical education, including instrumentation. It has one of the best public collections of chemistry sets, with approximately 100 different sets from all over the world, including Australia and Germany. Other special artifact collections include The Beauty of Bakelite and Chemistry and Fashion.[16] Highlights include the Beckman IR-1 spectrophotometer, John Fenn’s electrospray mass spectrometer and Bruce Merrifield’s solid-phase peptide synthesizer.[17]


CHF offers many fellowships-in-residence, of varying lengths.[18]

Long-Term Fellowships (9 months)

  • Gordon Cain Fellowships in Technology, Policy, and Entrepreneurship : The Cain Fellowships are open to postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars who plan to conduct historical research on some aspect of the development of the chemical and related industries. Multiple fellowships offered.
  • Sidney M. Edelstein Fellowships : The Edelstein Fellowships are designed for postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars whose projects deal generally with the history of the chemical and molecular sciences, technologies, and industries, regardless of time period. Two fellowships offered.
  • John C. Haas Fellowships  : The Haas Fellowships are open to postdoctoral and predoctoral scholars whose projects will enhance understanding of the chemical industries in relation to societal, environmental, health, and safety issues and in the public understanding of science. Two or three fellowships offered.
  • Charles C. Price Fellowship : The Price Fellowship is open to predoctoral scholars pursuing research on the history of the chemical sciences and technologies. Preference is given to applicants with projects on the history of polymers; however, scholars interested in other fields are also encouraged to apply.

Short-Term Fellowships (1–4 months)

  • Robert W. Allington Fellowships : Allington Fellowships are available to scholars doing research with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
  • CHF Fellowships : CHF Fellowships are available to scholars doing research with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
  • Herbert D. Doan Fellowships in the History of the Chemical Industries : Doan Fellowships are available to scholars doing research on topics related to chemical engineering and industry with the collections at CHF. Multiple fellowships offered.
  • Société de Chimie Industrielle Fellowship : The Société Fellowship is designed to stimulate public understanding of the chemical industries. Applications are encouraged from writers, journalists, educators, and historians of science, technology, or business. The fellow will spend three months in residence at CHF. Multimedia, popular book projects, and Web-based projects are encouraged.
  • Glenn E. and Barbara Hodsdon Ullyot Scholarship : The Ullyot Scholarship sponsors historical research that promotes public understanding of the chemical sciences. Applications are encouraged from scholars, graduate students, science writers, and journalists. The fellow will spend a minimum of two months in residence at CHF.
  • The Eugene Garfield Grants Program :
  • Theodore and Mary Herdegen Fellowship in the History of Scientific Information : Herdegen Fellowships are available to scholars doing research in the history of the production, transmission, and/or organization of scientific information. Preference is given to fellows working in areas of chemical information
  • Noshir T. Mistry Fellowship in the History of Chemical Engineering : The Mistry Fellow will investigate diverse topics in the history of chemical engineering, including chemical process engineering and chemical product engineering.
  • Paul Otlet Fellowship in the History of Information Science : The Otlet Fellow will conduct research that carries forth our understanding of documenting information and its role in enabling and disseminating scientific discovery. Preference is given to fellows studying information science before 1944, the internet, or to work that explores the political dimensions of science documentation.
  • Raquel and Arthur Seidel Fellowship in the History of Intellectual Property and Patents : The Seidel Fellow will work at the intersection of history of chemistry and the law in order to understand how the legal system has interacted with scientific process as it relates to discovery, patenting, commercialization, and public perception.

Research Travel Grants (1–2 weeks)

The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry offers travel grants for periods of up to two weeks for research using the primary research materials in CHF’s Othmer Library of Chemical History. Applicants must currently reside more than 75 miles from Philadelphia in order to be eligible.


  1. ^ "The History of CHF". Chemical Heritage: Newsmagazine of the Chemical Heritage Foundation 18 (1): 16–22. 2000-02-01. 
  2. ^ Neil Gussman (2010-10-15). "Alchemy is Front-Page News, Again in the Science Times". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Fine Art | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  4. ^ Spectroscopy magazine, 2002, 17, 34, "History of the Chemical Heritage Scientific Instrumentation Museum"
  5. ^ "Setting-Record-Straight". C&EN news. 2 Feb 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  6. ^ Quinones Miller, Karen E. (July 14, 1988). "Chemistry Foundation Here Finds Element Of Surprise A Professor Left It Millions". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-10-22. In 1982, when the Chemical Heritage Foundation was a fledgling research organization starting out with only $50,000, it asked chemical engineers and experts around the country to serve as advisers on its council of friends. One of those who accepted the invitation was Donald F. Othmer, a chemical engineering professor at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, an unassuming scholar who originally hailed from Omaha, Neb. 
  7. ^ Gussman, Neil. "The Power of John C. Haas's Good Name". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 23 September 2013. 
  8. ^ Chemical & Engineering News 2 February 2009, "Letters", p. 4
  9. ^ Reisch, Marc S. (2007-06-25). "Haverford College President Thomas Tritton Will Take CHF Helm in January". Chemical & Engineering News 85 (26): 11. 
  10. ^ Gussman, Neil (2012-10-09). "Tritton to retire in June 2013". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Chemical Heritage Foundation Names Carsten Reinhardt CEO". Chemical Processing. 2013-06-05. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "Rare Books | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  13. ^ "Oral Histories | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  14. ^ "Archives | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  15. ^ "Photographs | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  16. ^ "Artifacts | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  17. ^ "Scientific Instruments | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  18. ^ "Fellowships | Chemical Heritage Foundation". Retrieved 2013-06-24. 

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