AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 1, Spring 1997


Major Expansion Underway at the Chemical Heritage Foundation

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) has recently been put on a permanently solid footing with the receipt of a major endowment, and has moved into a fine new building in Philadelphia. The CHF had its origins in 1982 when it was established by the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, taking as a model the AIP Center for History of Physics (see this Newsletter, May 1982). CHF takes as its mission "to strengthen public understanding of the chemical sciences and technologies, increase the flow of the ablest students into the chemical sciences and chemical process industries, and instill in chemical scientists and engineers a greater pride in their heritage and their contributions to society." It includes the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center, which supports basic research in the history of the chemical sciences and sponsors events of interest to scholars and the informed public, and the Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History. Thanks to the Beckmans, more recently the Othmers, and other friends, the CHF's endowment now exceeds $60 million.

Pursuing a vision cherished by Othmer, in mid-1995 the CHF purchased a new home in the historic district of Philadelphia across from the Independence National Park. The majority of initial functional renovations are now completed, including an elegant expanded reading room for visiting researchers. There are ample office spaces and several entire floors available for future expansion.

Annual funds from ACS as well as numerous other affiliated societies, corporations, and individuals continue to provide the crucial underpinning for CHF's growing public outreach activities. The Foundation's publications activity increased extensively in the past year. It now issues a magazine, Chemical Heritage, 48 pages in length with color pages, distributed to over 20,000 industrial and educational leaders and science writers. CHF also sponsors book series addressing the history of the chemical sciences and a series of traveling exhibits designed to showcase the contributions of chemical scientists and the chemical process industries for students and the general public. Since their inception in 1983, these exhibits have circulated to 177 exhibitors in 34 states and 3 foreign countries. Currently underway is a major effort to develop an exhibit on the history of electrochemistry.

An oral history interview program is pursued to establish a collection documenting the work of individuals who have made significant contributions to the chemical sciences and industries. The foundation has conducted 158 interviews since inception of the program; 86 of these are fully processed, bound, and available in the Othmer Library.

Each year CHF sponsors the Edelstein Student and the Edelstein Fellow to conduct appropriate graduate studies and professional research, and the graduate programs will be expanded in the coming year. There are also small travel grants for visits to the Library.

The Othmer Library is projected to grow to 250,000 volumes over the next fifteen years. It currently houses approximately 50,000 books and journals ranging in publication dates from 1830-1970. In addition, the library has collections of historical manuscripts, artifacts, and a pictorial collection which includes a variety of photographs and other audio-visual items. All materials in the library collections are non-circulating, but are available for in-house use by appointment.

For further information check the CHF's Website at or write to Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106; phone 215-925-2222. For the Othmer Library contact Elizabeth Swan, Director of Library Services, phone ext. 226, e-mail; or Paul Giblin, Assistant Librarian for Access Services,phone ext. 246, e-mail; for the pictorial collections contact Marge Gapp,phone ext. 229, e-mail

Return to Newsletter Table of ContentsRETURN to Spring 1997 Newsletter Table of Contents

AIP History Center Center for History of Physics
Phone: 301-209-3165
American Institute of Physics 2003 American Institute of Physics, One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740-3843. Email: Phone: 301-209-3100; Fax: 301-209-0843