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Website of the Week — National Historic Chemical Landmarks

Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

Our choice this week is a collection of highlights in the history of chemistry. They include physical places, like the home of the man who discovered oxygen, Joseph Priestly, to accomplishments like the discovery of penicillin. They are honored by the American Chemical Society in its National Historic Chemical Landmarks program.

WASSERMAN: "And its function is to remind both the public and the chemical community of the many and varied contributions of chemistry, both in the U.S. and abroad."

Former ACS president Ed Wasserman has worked on the Landmarks Program, which is online at

Take the development of carbon fibers. In the 1950s, chemists turned carbon into high performance fibers, leading to a new class of materials that are used in products from aircraft to sporting goods.

WASSERMAN: "These, of course, as you have mentioned, have a good deal of uses. They are frequently found in sports equipment, where the idea of strength, stiffness and lightness is found in a desirable combination."

The Landmarks Program began in 1993 by recognizing Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, which was developed almost a century ago. The most recently honored chemical landmark is another consumer product — of all things, a laundry powder. Proctor and Gamble's Tide was the first heavy-duty synthetic detergent, introduced in 1946 after 10 years of research in the laboratory. Wasserman points out that a lot of science went into its development.

WASSERMAN: "This is not something you normally realize when you buy a box to put in your laundry. The idea of designating Tide as a landmark was a natural one to remind people that this, if you will, 'everyday product' is actually something that involves a good bit of sophisticated science behind its creation."

Ed Wasserman says these and other highlights of chemical science are presented in a way that you don't have to be a scientist to understand. Our Website of the Week, the American Chemical Society's National Historic Chemical Landmarks is at, or get the link from our site,