Maryland Section



It is my pleasure to say some things about not just the past 50, but about the last 87 years. Our section was founded in 1914, and I will try to show you that it is a mighty active, spry and healthy 87-year-old.

Before 1914, the nearest ACS Section was the Washington Section. If you think that Route 95 is tough to travel today, travel between Baltimore and Washington was undoubtedly even more difficult in the early part of the 20th century. Therefore, in 1911, a group headed by Ira Remsen, then the President of Johns Hopkins, founded the Baltimore branch of the Washington Section. And, in 1914, it was decided to found the Maryland Section itself.

The official petition for the founding, addressed to the Council of the American Chemical Society, was dated June 1,1914. It stated that the headquarters would be in Baltimore, and it bore twenty signatures of Baltimore area chemists. Among them was W. D. Penniman, whose company (Penniman & Browns, Inc., Chemists, Engineers and Inspectors, Falls Road) is still in business.

The first meeting of the new section was held on October 10, 1914, at Hopkins Hall. It was called to order by C. P. Van Gundy (another one of the twenty petition signers) at 8:30 PM. The constitution and by-laws of the Baltimore Branch of the Washington Section was adopted, with “such changes as are necessary”, by the Maryland Section. An election of officers followed - the aforementioned W. B. D. Penniman and C. Glaser were nominated for chairman, and W. B. D. Penniman was elected. Also, J. C. W. Frazer was chosen to be vice-chairman, F. M. Boyles became secretary-treasurer while C P. Van Gundy and J. H. Shrader became members of the executive committee. Dr. Glaser (apparently not a sore loser) presented a paper entitled “The Catalytic Decomposition of Bornyl Chloride by Copper”. The meeting adjourned at 10 PM; the attendance was 31.

The total membership of the section at that time was 90; it is about 2000 today. There is a good reason for this increase: there are many more chemists in the area served by the section than there were in 1914 They work in the numerous academic, industrial and government laboratories in the area. Here area few examples:

The McCormick Co. was founded in 1889, so it was well established by 1914. Since then, the W. R Grace Co. and Millennium Inorganic Chemicals (formerly SCM Corporation), Becton-Dickinson. Gascoyne Laboratories and Guilford Pharmaceuticals (to name only a few), have arrived. Examples of government laboratories within the section are Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Edgewood, the Maryland State Department of Health, Frederick Cancer Research Center and the State Police Crime Laboratory and, of course, the Maryland Section is home to many outstanding academic institutions: universities, four-year colleges and community colleges. All of these places have a history or excellence in research (and the academic institutions excel in teaching, also). It is not surprising that many world-famous products (e.g. Saccharin, Mercurochrome, Bromo-Seltzer and Bufferin) were discovered within the boundaries of the section.

Today, the 87-year old section is as active as ever. The regular meetings begun on October 10,1914, are still held. The section co-sponsors (with The Johns Hopkins University) the annual, highly prestigious Remsen Award; thirteen recipients have gone onto win Nobel Prizes. And perhaps most importantly of all, the section reaches out to the young chemists of the future. For example, (l) awards, annually, an award to an outstanding chemistry student at each academic institution within the section, (2) the section participates, very actively, in National Chemistry week, (3) the section reaches out to high schools by sponsoring awards for high school teachers, providing judges at science fairs, (4) sponsors the MD Chemist award and Science Job Fair and participating in the Chemistry Olympiad, sponsored by the national office of the ACS. In recent years, the section has established an outreach program through kids and chemistry, and recognizing individuals for 50 years of membership in ACS.

The Maryland section has indeed had a distinguished past, and it looks forward to an even brighter and more productive future.


Written by Ernie Silversmith
Morgan State University
June 1, 2001

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