ACS History

The First 100 Years

Thirty-five chemists met at the College of Pharmacy of the City of New York on April 6, 1876, to found the American Chemical Society. Seven months later, the first president of the newly formed society, John William Draper, delivered his inaugural address at Chickering Hall in New York.

From its inception, the ACS was committed to sharing its professional work with a public audience. ACS began publishing its flagship journal, the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), in April, 1879. Abstracts, which had appeared in JACS since 1897, were given their own publication, Chemical Abstracts in January 1907.

By 1930, ACS had 18,206 members, 83 local sections and 17 disciplinary divisions. On August 25, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Public Act No. 358, incorporating the society under federal charter. ACS celebrated its centennial year in 1976, at two national meetings with over 10,000 attendees at each.

The Presidency

The Society’s second century was off to a great start with Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg serving in 1976; Henry A. Hill, the first African-American president serving in 1977; and Anna J. Harrison, the first woman president, serving in 1978. Each ACS President develops his or her own goals with corresponding initiatives and events while serving as the Society’s primary spokesperson and representative.


The Petroleum Research Fund was originally established as a Trust by seven major oil companies in 1944. The American Chemical Society, to whom the assets of the Fund were transferred in 2000, administers grants made to nonprofit institutions in the United States and other countries in response to proposals. Since the first ACS PRF grants were approved in 1954, several grant programs have evolved to serve segments of the scientific community. ACS PRF funding commitments in 2007 totaled $25.2 million.

National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program

In 1992, the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program was created to enhance the public's recognition and appreciation of the contributions of the chemical sciences and chemical engineering to modern life and to increase the sense of pride in their practitioners. The Bakelizer was designated as the first landmark on November 9, 1993. Leo H. Baekeland used the Bakelizer autoclave to produce Bakelite®, the first wholly synthetic plastic. To date, the American Chemical Society has declared more than 60 places, discoveries and achievements historic chemical landmarks.

125 Year Anniversary

In 2001, the ACS celebrated its 125 Year Anniversary by commissioning a three-dimensional tribute sculpture by Italian artist Lawrence Romorini. The Society also developed an elaborate online presentation and historical timeline to commemorate the events which have played a role in the growth of the chemical industry and the expansion of the Society’s interests.