Cocktails, Dinner, and Chemistry

Posted on behalf of senior correspondent Marc Reisch. Leading in to the U.S. kickoff of the International Year of Chemistry last night, about 175 chemical industry movers and shakers gathered at the Philadelphia headquarters of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF). At his remarks just before dinner, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris got it right when he noted that lauding the benefits of chemistry to an audience including leaders in science and industry was like preaching to the converted. And what an audience it was. Among the industry leaders present were Pierre Brondeau, CEO of FMC, Stephanie Burns, chairman of Dow Corning, and Craig Rogerson, chairman of Chemtura. Others at the dinner to welcome in the year of chemistry included Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, and Nancy Jackson, president of ACS. Even the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael A. Nutter, made an appearance and professed his enthusiasm for chemistry, though he confessed that the effort to memorize the periodic table of elements in college pretty much ended his pre-med career path. Earlier in the evening, guests were able to enjoy cocktails and meander about the spacious CHF building and its many science exhibits. They could also choose from among several lectures. One, by Washington Post columnist Jason Wilson, was a talk on the history of the once banned alcoholic beverage absinthe. Johns Hopkins University professor Lawrence Principe, discussed 16th and 17th century European books intended to make alchemy a respectable pursuit. In a quiet room off from the main library, CHF invited guests to view a display of rare books on gastronomy, wine, and spirits from CHF’s collection. The display included a 1512 edition of the “Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis,” which a placard described as “the most important early distilling book and arguably the first book on chemical technology ever published.” “We’re the enablers of human experience on this fragile planet,” Liveris noted, making food, clean water, comfortable homes, medicines, and the latest electronics available to a growing world population.  “We know this, but billions of people don’t. Our story isn’t told well…. What a shame if a year from now that didn’t change,” he said. Liveris hoped the gathering would make the evening’s celebrants eager to celebrate chemistry in classrooms, at the dinner table, and throughout the course of their daily activities. “We’ve got to convert the unconverted,” he said. Today he should have the first of many chances planned for the year. Liveris will be among the panelists at the official opening of the International Year of Chemistry in the U.S., which is open to the public. More than 300 people are expected at the CHF event which features a panel discussion on how the chemical sciences will address pressing issues of the 21st century. Other panelists include DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman, former National Science Foundation director Rita Colwell, and Daniel G. Nocera, professor of chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Chemistry.

Author: Rachel Pepling

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