ACS President: Ira Remsen (1846-1927)

Served as President: 1902

He was one of the original faculty members of Johns Hopkins University and founded the department of chemistry

One night he bit into his dinner roll; it tasted initially sweet and then bitter. Then he licked his fingers, same response. The next morning he went into the lab and tasted the chemicals they had been working with the previous day. Finding the one with the sweet then bitter taste was the beginning of the development of Saccharin


  • M.D., 1867, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, Medicine
  • Ph.D, 1870, University of Goettingen, Organic Chemistry

Career Highlights:

  • Professor, chemistry, Johns Hopkins University, 1876-1901
  • President, Johns Hopkins University, 1901-1912

Notable Accomplishments:

Author, several textbooks on chemistry which were unique in that he could reduce fundamental principles to a form simple enough for beginning students to understand. Chair of the Remsen Referee Board which resolved disputes about the purity of foods. In 1879 he founded the American Chemical Journal. He edited the Journal for 35 years until it was combined with the Journal of the American Chemical Society in 1915. Women graduate students were admitted to Johns Hopkins University during his presidency.

Major Awards and Honors:

  • Priestley Medal, ACS, 1923, the first recipient

Service to Science:

  • President, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1903
  • President, Society of the Chemical Industry, 1910
  • President, National Academy of Sciences, 1907-1913

Did You Know

. . . that his first experiment taught him three things? Nitric acid does indeed act upon copper and, upon fingers and, upon trousers?

. . . that he is the only person buried on campus at Johns Hopkins and according to legend, undergraduates who rub the plaque the night before their chemistry exam will do well?

Former ACS President Ira Remsen