If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


ACS News

Reactions: What science history can teach us about world affairs, making C&EN for non-PhDs too, and advancing sustainable tires

June 23, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 20


Letters to the editor

Untold and forgotten science history

A recent news broadcast expressed surprise at how we had overestimated the Russian military and underestimated western Europe’s response in the Ukraine war. This is more understandable by considering the history of organic chemistry.

All countries and ethnic groups have outstanding scientists. However, the vast majority of organic chemistry and other scientific literature was printed in German by the early 20th century. As a practicing organic chemist, I had to read the German literature several times a week for 40 years starting in the 1950s. The next languages were English and French, but very little or none in other languages before World War II.

Justus von Liebig is considered a founding father of organic chemistry. Among his early contributions to organic chemistry, he also founded the first organic chemistry journal, Liebig’s Annalen der Chemie, in 1832. The stage was set with the first international chemistry conference being in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1860. Before WWI, many chemists went to Germany for advanced studies in chemistry. For example, the famous Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev formulated his ideas of the periodic table of elements while at Heidelberg, Germany. Some famous American chemists of the time did doctoral or postdoctoral studies in Germany: G. N. Lewis at Göttingen and Leipzig, Roger Adams at Berlin, and others.

The results of this became obvious during WWI and WWII. Many industrial chemicals and dyes came from Germany. Dyes for soldiers’ uniforms were scarce for the Allies. Eastman Kodak was experimenting with dyes for photography and textiles and supplied most of the dyes for the war efforts. After the wars, Kodak supplied fine chemicals to universities gratis and later as a business after Eastman Chemical was founded in 1920.

When Sputnik appeared in the late 1950s and the space race started, I was queried numerous times about what this meant to the world status. On the basis of the above observations, I pointed out that Russia had gotten its advantage in space from the German scientists that it had retrieved from Germany after WWII, as the US did. However, Russia didn’t have any notable infrastructure in science. The Russian Revolution in 1918 didn’t help because Russia’s focus was getting food to eat and not progress in science. When the communist regime transformed in 1990, the oligarchs-to-be took the money for themselves and didn’t spend much on science. The results are what you see today, so be prepared.

Roy C. De Selms
Asheville, North Carolina

C&EN for non-PhDs

I have employed and worked with BS- and MS-degreed chemists for years, and C&EN has not recognized these chemists. Yet they are the people that support the majority of the fields of chemistry overall. Sometimes I have seen and heard these chemists referred to as technicians, which is counter to their education and work experience. This has caused many not to join the American Chemical Society since they see no value in it. In my career I was chief operations officer of 24 laboratories with over 400 chemists, and only 18 were members of ACS. C&EN and technical journals are critical to attracting chemists into ACS. The answer I receive in talking to young BS and MS chemists is that C&EN is geared to PhDs only.

I believe that being an ACS member and reading C&EN over the last 50-plus years has helped my career. C&EN spends a lot of time to identify upcoming PhDs; why can’t it do that for non-PhDs or have some other form of recognition? It would award ACS and all chemists. You must realize that C&EN is a better way to attract membership in ACS than any other means.

Jack R. Hall
Loudon, Tennessee

Green tires

Delighted to see the article “Can Tires Turn Green?” (C&EN, May 29, 2023, page 28). Having spent the first decade of my 35-year industrial career in the rubber industry, and having published and presented about the topic, I am keenly sensitized to the ongoing but still lurking ecodisaster. From the grinding for use in playground or cattle-comfort mats to asphalt modification (legislated in Florida in the 1990s) and synthetic coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, I do not believe the problem is under control.

For more information, see “Repurposing Tires—Alternative Energy Source?” (Phys. Sci. Rev. 2022, DOI: 10.1515/psr-2021-0074) and the chapter “Road Dust: Composition and Effects on Urban Waterways” in Green Chemistry.

Ideas abound—the problem is screaming for a solution! Let’s get moving!

Heinz Plaumann
Brownstown, Michigan



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.