Percy Julian Program | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 13 | p. 3 | Letters
Issue Date: March 26, 2007

Percy Julian Program

Department: Letters

Kudos to ACS for its role in supporting PBS's "NOVA" documentary of Percy Julian that aired on Feb. 6 (C&EN, Jan. 29, page 11). At lunch the very next day, my nontechnical companion brought up the wonderful program that taught him about the various industrial and food uses of the soybean that Julian had pioneered. Two days later, a speaker at a senior citizen's forum, partly about discrimination, mentioned that aspect of the PBS program.

Programs like "NOVA" do great service in presenting the tremendous contributions of scientific endeavors to everyday lives. They follow in the great tradition of the late Carl Sagan who appeared some 20 times on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson to describe the wonders of the universe to that audience. We need to reaffirm the good side of science in the eyes of the general public, without denying some of the downside, and perhaps be able to someday revive the DuPont slogan "Better Living through Chemistry."

A recent chemistry blog described a student chemist's frustration in overhearing a couple trying to decipher the ingredient label in a supermarket. Maybe the ACS Education Division staff and the ACS Division of Chemical Education could work with school and industry people to create internships where a student chemist could work on the supermarket floor to give hands-on interpretation about the chemicals listed in food products.

As a longtime chemical engineering retiree, I have sometimes used material from C&EN Newscripts and "What's That Stuff?" to give little presentations to a senior citizens group in my area.

Much of the other stuff in C&EN is now too far beyond my ability to interpret to a lay audience. Keep up the good work.

Max Taitel
Foxboro, Mass.

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