About the National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program

Welcome to the website of the American Chemical Society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks (NHCL or Landmarks) program. Through this program, ACS grants Landmark status to seminal achievements in the history of the chemical sciences.

The mission of the NHCL program is to enhance public appreciation for the contributions of the chemical sciences to modern life in the United States and to encourage a sense of pride in their practitioners for chemistry’s rich history. The program does this by recognizing seminal achievements in the chemical sciences, recording their histories, and providing information and resources about Landmark achievements.

Prospective ACS Landmarks must be sponsored by a relevant ACS local section, division or committee; reviewed by the ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Subcommittee; and approved by the ACS Board Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations, which acts on behalf of the ACS Board of Directors.

To symbolize the designation of a Landmark, ACS presents an historical marker to the host organization and publishes a commemorative booklet and webpage as a record of the achievement. Local sponsors, in cooperation with the NHCL Program Manager, organize a ceremony to commemorate the designation. Generally three designations are performed each year.

ACS established the NHCL program in 1992. Achievements recognized through this program have included Bakelite, the world’s first synthetic plastic; the discovery and development of penicillin; and the work of historical figures such as Joseph Priestley, George Washington Carver and Rachel Carson. A complete list of designated achievements is available on the Directory of National Historic Chemical Landmarks.

NHCL Program Information and Resources


Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Awards

Since 2006, the Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Award program, administered by the ACS Division of the History of Chemistry, has honored scientific publications, books and patents that have been revolutionary in concept, broad in scope, and which forever changed the face of chemistry.

In 2017, four awards were made:

  • To California Institute of Technology, for the Pauling, Corey and Branson 1951 publication on “The Structure of Proteins”
  • To the Francis Crick Institute for the James and Martin 1954 publication on “Gas-Liquid Chromatography”
  • To Harvard University for the Maxam and Gilbert 1977 publication on “A New Method for Sequencing DNA”
  • To Novartis International for the Saiki, Scharf, Faloona, Mullis, Horn, Erlich and Arnheim publication on “Enzymatic Amplification of Beta-Globin Genomic Sequences" (Polymerase Chain Reaction/PCR)"

More information is available on the HIST Citation Awards webpage.