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 and broad in scope, and that forever changed the face of chemistry. As of 2021, 79 awards have been presented.

In 2021, three awards to five sites were made:

  • Yale University, for J. Willard Gibbs’s 1876 paper explaining the laws of thermodynamics
  • Kyoto University, for Kenichi Fukui’s 1952 paper on his discovery of frontier molecular orbital theory
  • Nagoya University, the Institute for Molecular Science at Myodaiji, Okazaki, and Takasago International Corporation, for Ryoji Norori et al.’s discovery of chirally-catalyzed hydrogenations (1987)

More information is available on the HIST Citation Awards webpage.