Cradles of Chemistry

National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program

These universities, buildings, laboratories, and collections have been recognized for their special role in nurturing chemistry and preserving its legacy for future generations.

Chandler Laboratory at Lehigh University

The William H. Chandler Chemistry Laboratory at Lehigh University was conceived and planned by William Henry Chandler (1841-1906), professor, chairman, librarian, and acting president of Lehigh University. Designed by Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton and erected in 1884 and 1885 at a cost of $200,000, the structure contained such novel features as steam-heated reaction baths, heated chimneys as exhaust hoods, a teaching museum, modular benches, transom-regulated ventilation, vertical service chases, and below-ground storage for fuel, ashes, and chemicals. The building set the standard for laboratory construction for the next half century. Learn more.

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)

Founded in 1907 with the first publication of Chemical AbstractsTM, the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), a division of the American Chemical Society, has provided generations of scientists with unparalleled access to the most comprehensive repository of research in chemistry and related sciences. For over 100 years, CAS innovations have fueled chemical research through development of the CAS RegistrySM and CAS databases which contain invaluable information for chemical scientists, including SciFinder® and STN®. CAS continues to pursue its mission to provide access to chemical and related information that speeds and enables scientific discovery to improve people's lives. Learn more.

Foundations of Polymer Science: Herman Mark and the Polymer Research Institute

Herman Mark arrived at Polytechnic Institute (now the Polytechnic Institute of New York University) in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940. A prominent scientist and a pioneer in the study of polymers, Mark introduced the teaching of polymer chemistry into the school curriculum immediately, built up the program over the next few years, and by 1946 had established the Polymer Research Institute, the first academic research facility in the United States for the study of polymers. Scientists associated with PRI contributed greatly to the growth of what has become a vital branch of chemistry, engineering, and materials science. Learn more.

Gilman Hall at the University of California, Berkeley

Gilman Hall, built between 1916 and 1917, accommodated a growing College of Chemistry of the University of California at Berkeley by providing expanded research and teaching facilities for faculty and students specializing in physical, inorganic, and nuclear chemistry. Work performed at Gilman Hall helped advance the fields of chemical thermodynamics and molecular structure, and has resulted in multiple Nobel Prizes. Learn more.

Havemeyer Hall at Columbia University

Havemeyer Hall was built between 1896 and 1898 under the leadership of Charles Frederick Chandler. It has provided research and teaching facilities for faculty and students specializing in industrial, inorganic, organic, physical, and biological chemistry. Pioneering research done here led to seven Nobel Prize awards, including Irving Langmuir’s 1932 award (the first industrial chemist to be so honored) and Harold Clayton Urey’s 1934 award for the discovery of deuterium. The grand lecture hall in the center of Havemeyer remains the signature feature of the original design by noted architect Charles Follen McKim. Learn more.

John W. Draper and the Founding of the American Chemical Society, 1876

In 1876 at New York University, 35 chemists formed the American Chemical Society, intending to stimulate original research, awaken and develop talent throughout the United States, provide fellowship, and ensure a better appreciation of the science by the general public. John W. Draper, the Society’s first president, was noted for his pioneering work in photography and photochemistry, as well as his writings in history and education. Now the world’s largest scientific society, ACS has 189 local sections in all 50 states, international chapters, and technical divisions that bring together scientists with interests ranging from small business to environmental improvement. Learn more.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The federal government’s first physical science research laboratory was chartered by Congress on March 3, 1901, as the National Bureau of Standards, which became the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1988. Recognizing the critical importance of chemical measures and standards, NIST established the Chemistry Division as one of its first programs. Today, the Chemical Science and Technology Laboratory, one of the Institute’s seven measurement and standards laboratories, offers the most comprehensive range of chemical, physical, and engineering measurement capabilities in its field. Learn more.

Noyes Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Noyes Laboratory occupies a central place in the development of chemical sciences in the United States. Four departments of national and international stature—Chemistry, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, and the Illinois State Water Survey—were at one time simultaneously located within its walls. Generations of scientists and engineers trained here under the leadership of renowned chemists such as William A. Noyes and Roger Adams. Chemical sciences in the United States have been immeasurably strengthened by the important and continuing interdisciplinary research conducted by Noyes Laboratory scientists. Learn more.

Nucleic Acid and Protein Chemistry Research at Rockefeller University

John D. Rockefeller founded the university that bears his name in 1901 after his grandson died from scarlet fever. Located in New York City and originally called the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, it was the first institution in the United States devoted solely to biomedical research and is renowned for research on proteins and nucleic acids—the chemistry of life itself. Scientists at Rockefeller discovered that genes are made of DNA, found the Rh factor in blood, demonstrated the connection between cholesterol and heart disease, developed vaccines against meningitis, and introduced methadone to manage heroin addiction. Learn more.

Smith Memorial Collection at the University of Pennsylvania

The Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection in the History of Chemistry is one of the oldest, most diverse, and most significant collections of chemistry books, manuscripts, and images in the United States. During more than 40 years at the University of Pennsylvania, Edgar Fahs Smith (1854-1928) shared his great interest in the culture and history of chemistry through teaching, lecturing, and writing. The collection remains an essential resource for historians and chemists alike. Learn more.

Universal Oil Products (UOP) Riverside Laboratory

The Universal Oil Products (UOP) Riverside research and development laboratory was conceived in 1921 by Hiram J. Halle, the chief executive officer of Universal Oil Products, as a focal point where the best and brightest scientists could create new products and provide scientific support for the oil refining industry. By 1921, that industry was growing rapidly as increasing numbers of automobiles led to greater demand for refined oil products. Riverside researchers focus on petroleum-related projects with commercial applications. Between 1921 and 1955, their breakthroughs resulted in nearly 9,000 patents. Learn more.

Williams-Miles History of Chemistry Collection at Harding University

The Williams-Miles History of Chemistry Collection was gathered over many years by scholarly searching. Created by two good friends—Wyndam Miles, a science historian for the National Institutes of Health, and William Williams, a chemistry professor at the university—the collection emphasizes American chemical imprints. Highlights include 19th century chemistry textbooks and a 1945 account of the development of the atomic bomb. The 2,000 volumes in the collection provide a remarkably complete coverage of 19th-century chemistry. The Williams-Miles Collection is located in the Brackett Library at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Learn more.