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Credit: Shutterstock/Kay Youn/Will Ludwig/C&EN

Science Communication

A century of chemistry and of C&EN

by Alla Katsnelson, special to C&EN
August 11, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 26
C&EN 100 year logo.

Credit: Shutterstock/Will Ludwig/C&EN


In its inaugural issue, published Jan. 10, 1923, the magazine that would soon become Chemical & Engineering News told readers about several events and ideas in chemistry. Among them: the first sugar factory to use the enzyme invertase in production, the power of pancreatic gland extracts to treat diabetes, and a talk by esteemed chemical engineer John E. Teeple on research chemistry’s role in US industry.

In the 100 years since our launch, we have sought to present our readers with a broad view of chemistry’s many dimensions. During that time, both chemistry and the world at large have undergone countless transformations. Some changes have been technological, including discoveries that won Nobel Prizes and enabled progress on many fronts. And some have been societal, such as the growing importance of inclusivity in chemistry.

Through it all, we have always been grateful for how the chemistry community has embraced this magazine as a source of trusted news and commentary.

To mark C&EN’s centennial, we asked you, our readers, to tell us what you see as the most consequential events, discoveries, and developments of the past century.

A significant number of you noted the industrialization of the Haber-Bosch process, which, in the words of one reader, “helped save millions from starvation, fueled one of the biggest population growths in the history of [humankind] and created the conditions for our modern world.”

Almost as many of you remarked on polymer science, which has integrated plastics into the fabric of our lives, and on the significance of lithium-ion battery technology, which, as another reader wrote, “untethered us from power cords.” The discovery of DNA’s structure also stood out as a moment that paved the way for many life sciences technologies we rely on today. The discovery of penicillin and other medicinal molecules and the development of biologic drugs, such as recombinant insulin, made the cut too.

You noted the enormous importance of analytical instruments that allow scientists to observe and understand molecules at the smallest scales. You also pointed to the birth of green chemistry as a framework for reining in environmental harms and the crucial role that computers and big data now play in both research and industry.

Finally, you exhorted us to remember chemistry’s missteps, even as we laud its accomplishments.

We hope you enjoy reading about a century of chemistry’s milestones. Here’s to the next 100 years.


EDITORIAL LEAD: Alla Katsnelson

PROJECT MANAGER: Michael Sheehan

WRITERS: Matt Blois, Leigh Krietsch Boerner, Chris Gorski, Bethany Halford, Mitch Jacoby, Alla Katsnelson, Laurel Oldach, Ariana Remmel, and Alexander H. Tullo

EDITORS: Alla Katsnelson and Michael McCoy

ADDITIONAL EDITORS: Laura Howes, Mitch Jacoby, and Manny I. Fox Morone


ART DIRECTORS: William A. Ludwig, Robin L. Braverman, and Yang H. Ku

UI/UX DESIGNERS: Tchad Blair and Kay Youn

WEB PRODUCERS: Luis A. Carrillo, Ty A. Finocchiaro, and Jennifer Muller

COPYEDITORS: Michele Arboit and Sabrina J. Ashwell

PRODUCTION EDITORS: Jonathan Forney, David Padgham, Raadhia Patwary, Sydney Smith, and Marsha-Ann Watson

ENGAGEMENT EDITORS: Liam Conlon, Leeann Kirchner, and Marianna Limas

IDEA AGENTS: Our readers


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