ACS President: William H. Nichols (1852-1930)

Served as President: 1918 and 1919

Founded his first chemical business at age 18

Nichols’ most often quoted belief was that “the Golden Rule is as applicable in business as it is in church”


  • M.S., 1873, New York University, Chemistry

Career Highlights:

  • Nichols’ first significant company was formed to manufacture sulfuric acid in 1870
  • William H. Nichols and his son, Charles W. Nichols, orchestrated the merger of 12 companies to create General Chemical, 1899
  • Teamed with Eugene Meyer to combine five smaller chemical companies to create Allied Chemical & Dye Corporation, 1920, which later become Allied Chemical Corp., and eventually become a part of AlliedSignal, the forerunner of Honeywell’s specialty materials business

Notable Accomplishments:

Manufactured sulfuric acid, electrolytically refined copper and dyes. Manufactured ammonia from atmospheric nitrogen. Became a force in America’s fledgling chemical industry by capitalizing on the value of research and development work done within the industrial setting.

Major Awards and Honors:

  • Honorary L.L.D., Lafayette University, 1904
  • Honorary Sc.D., Columbia University, 1904
  • Honorary Sc.D., Pittsburg University, 1920
  • Honorary Sc.D., Tufts University, 1921
  • Established the first gold medal for original chemical research, by endowing it with 10 shares of preferred stock in General Chemical. The award was named after him, “The Nichols Medal of the New York Section”
  • The Nichols Medal is a 18 carat gold medal, whose design depicts the allegorical figure of Dr. Faust in his laboratory as described by Goethe

Service to Science:

  • One of 30 founders of the American Chemical Society, 1876
  • President, Society of Chemical Industry, 1904
  • President, Eighth International Congress of Applied Chemistry, 1912
  • Chairman of Board, Polytechnic Institute of New York University, Brooklyn
  • Appointed chairman, Committee on Chemicals, Council National Defense, 1917

Did You Know

. . . that throughout his career, Nichols demonstrated a great concern for the welfare of his employees?

. . . that he showed great support for science education and the students of chemistry?

. . . that, in the middle of the Depression,1930, he bequeathed $50,000 to ACS?

. . . that Nichols’ original plant along the Newtown Creek in Queens was infamous for its legacy of pollution? As an example, Nichols is rumored to have once emptied vats of excess sulfuric acid into the creek rather than sell it cheaply to a businessman he had no respect for.

Former ACS President William H. Nichols