Historical Summary

Facts about the North Carolina Section ACS

Courtesy of Professor Maurice Bursey, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Appended and edited by Dr. William L. Switzer, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

    • The American Chemical Society was founded in 1876 in New York, then the center of chemical research in the country.

    • Local Sections were not started outside of New York until 1890, when Rhode Island members formed a section. Earlier they had threatened to start a new chemical society because of the restriction of activities to New York.

    • The North Carolina Section (1896) was the first in the South. About half a dozen local sections had been established in the North.

    • Members of the North Carolina Section in 1896 were mostly professors at colleges and university and scientists at the North Carolina Experiment Station.

    • Drive for a section in North Carolina came primarily from Charles Baskerville, a new professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

    • The first president of the North Carolina Section was Francis Venable, head of the chemistry department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He was president for three years, a record so far unmatched by any successor.

    • The first meeting was in Raleigh, on February 22. Undoubtedly this date was chosen because it was a school holiday (George Washington's birthday). Travel to the meeting would have taken a long time. For example, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, attendees would have had to take the spur train to University Station, then the main railroad line through Durham to Raleigh!

    • The program was quite extensive. Several members doing their own research gave research reports on their work.

    • At first the North Carolina Section's area covered the whole state. Meetings were held all over the state accessible by train in spite of the substantial amount of travel involved. Often travel involved one or two night's stay at the meeting city.

    • B. W. Kilgore of the Experiment Station was the first government/industrial chemist to be the section president.

    • William Withers of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, now North Carolina State University, was another early president. He was famous for his research on the poisonous constituent of untreated cotton, gossypol.

    • In time other Sections were split off from the North Carolina Section, as the number of chemists grew in North Carolina and demands on their time prevented far-ranging travel. Today there are five sections or parts of section of the American Chemical Society in North Carolina, covering all but a few of the most rural of the 100 counties. As of January 1, 2003, there were 2640 members in the North Carolina Section alone.

    • In 1984 and again in 1998, the North Carolina Section hosted Regional ACS meetings. Attendance was about 1200 and about 2100 at the two meetings.

    • In 1991, the section began Project SEED, a program to introduce disadvantaged high school students to research, with five students. In 2005 it served 25 students with a 2-summer research option under the direction of Mr. Ken Cutler of North Carolina Central University. As of 2005, the number of students graduating from project SEED and majoring in a chemical science was 62%.

    • In 2000 and 2001, the section's Younger Chemists Committee was awarded the Chem Luminary Award for Outstanding YCC in ACS.

    • In 2001, the section's Younger Chemists Committee received the Most Creative Program Award from the ACS.

    • In 2003, Section efforts resulted in the Natural Products Laboratory at the Research Triangle Institute being declared a National Chemical History Landmark in honor of both Dr. Wani and Dr. Wall for their work on Taxol.

    • In 2004 and again in 2012, the North Carolina Section hosted the Southeast Regional Meeting of the ACS.