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.




Historic launches: A chemstronaut celebrated and Geoffrey Chaucer app-reciated

by Megha Satyanarayana
February 16, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 7


An image of Major Robert Lawrence.
Credit: Newscom
Into the heavens: A spacecraft named after Maj. Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the first black astronaut, was scheduled to launch on Feb. 14 to bring cargo to the International Space Station.

A major honor for Major Lawrence

At Newscripts, we pride ourselves on sharing the quirkiest science news with you, but sometimes, we get the honor of sharing the most timely, reverent science news. On Feb. 14, a cargo ship named after Maj. Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut, was scheduled to head from Virginia to the International Space Station. Lawrence, a chemist, joined the US Air Force after his undergraduate studies at Bradley University. While in the air force, he got his PhD in physical chemistry at the Ohio State University.

In 1967, Lawrence was picked to be part of an intelligence mission in low orbit, but he never made it. He died on a training flight that crashed a few months later.

This month’s cargo drop is part of Northrop Grumman’s contract with NASA; the aerospace company announced the naming of the spacecraft, NG-13, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Its cargo includes, among other things, an updated mobile space lab for cell and tissue culturing, a miniature scanning electron microscope, and materials to study bone density and phage therapy.

Brandon McFarlin, a Bradley graduate who earned a scholarship in Lawrence’s honor while studying biochemistry, says that hearing about the spacecraft has been a source of pride and motivation.

“He paved the way for me to follow in his footsteps,” McFarlin told Newscripts during a quick lunch break from PhD studies at the University of Southern California. He’s studying hypertension and kidney disease. “He did this back when it was more difficult.”

At Bradley, the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department celebrated with a party on the original launch date (the flight has been scrubbed a couple of times) in the, yep, you guessed it, Lawrence Lecture Hall. Chemistry professor Dean Campbell told Newscripts before the party that he planned to talk about Lawrence’s life as well as some pertinent chemistry. “I was looking up information on some of the fuels the rocket uses. How often do we get a spacecraft named after a chemist?”


The ‘appe’ maker’s tale

An image of the Canterbury Tales app.
Credit: Megha Satyanarayana/C&EN
A technological tale: Scholars at the University of Saskatchewan have created the first app that allows people to study The Canterbury Tales.

The Canterbury Tales we chemists know

because of the Canon’s Yeoman’s alchemical woe.

These tales of “pilgrymes” on a solemn quest

provide such insight and then such jest.

But as our lives become so tech

for all small things our phones on deck,

there comes the need for novel ways

to learn of Chaucer, the middle days.

So Newscripts shares the first app ye can use

to study the tales wheneveryou choose

by sight, by sound, and even translated

because Middle English is wee bit dated.

Peter Robinson tells the Newscripts crew

that the app is for scholars and schoolkids too,

and the original text you see on your screen

comes from Chaucer’s scribe and is quite pristine.

The Saskatchewan professor says in appification,

university scholars had a profound revelation,

a possible date for a battle fought

by the Knight in the prologue­—this debate’s been hot.

And while the “slydinge science” of the Yeoman’s tale

may not be the next they’ll choose to unveil,

Robinson says their options are plenty,

so download to follow the “nyne and twenty.”

Please send comments and suggestions to

The app can be found by searching "General Prologue in PlayStore or in the App Store. It can also be accessed online:


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

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