Department of Chemistry (University of Michigan) records: 1866-2013
Summary Information
Title: Department of Chemistry (University of Michigan) records
Creator: University of Michigan. Dept. of Chemistry.
Inclusive dates: 1866-2013
Inclusive dates: 1934-1994
Extent: 7.0 linear feet
Extent: 2 oversize volumes
Abstract:
Department in the College of Literature Science & Arts of the University of Michigan, origins trace to 1844 when chemistry was first taught at the university; includes scattered early records ca. 1866-1930, faculty minutes, records of experiments, and files on sponsored lectures, colloquia and symposia.
Call number: 87128 BImu Bimu 2 C26 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by Ke Lu, 1995, Last updated April 2015

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The record group (accession no. 587 was received in several accessions; the largest accession was received in July 1995. Photographs of the Chemistry Building construction were received in 2007 (donor 9906).

Access Restrictions:

The record group Department of Chemistry is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


Arrangement

The records have been divided into five series:

  1. Historical Files, 1866-1936 (1 folder and 2 oversize volumes)
  2. Administrative Files
  3. Colloquia
  4. Lectures and Symposia
  5. Center for Catalyst and Surface Science Files

History

The University of Michigan was the second institution in the nation to offer chemistry classes. In 1839, Dr. Douglas Houghton was appointed to a combined professorship of chemistry, geology and mineralogy, although he did not actually teach chemistry. Instruction in chemistry at the university began in 1844 with the appointment of Silas H. Douglass as assistant to the professor of chemistry. For some years instruction was limited to lectures, but shortly after Henry P. Tappan became the university's first president in 1852 laboratory work was initiated. It consisted mainly of chemical analyses and their applications to toxicology and other subjects, chiefly medical. At that time most chemical experiments were conducted in the university's original Medical Building. In 1856 a chemical laboratory was constructed providing facilities for experiments and instruction in analytical chemistry. Because of the nature of the discipline, chemistry teaching for many years was associated with other departments or schools, notably, the College of Pharmacy, Medical School, College of Engineering and School of Dentistry. Thus, from the very beginning, chemistry at Michigan has been an integral part of the university's undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

The organizational structure of the Department of Chemistry during the early years was different from what it is today. Since the chemistry laboratory served as the focal point of the teaching and research activities for several departments and schools, the director of the laboratory functioned as both the administrator of the chemical laboratory and the chairman of the department. This practice continued until 1927 when Moses Gomberg was appointed as the first chairman of the Department of Chemistry.

Since its founding, the Department of Chemistry has enjoyed a long and distinguished reputation as a leader in chemistry education and research. Although it is difficult to single out individuals for particularly important contributions to the department, any list would have to include Albert Prescott, Moses Gomberg, Werner Bachmann and Kasimir Fajans. Albert Prescott played a key role in building the chemistry department into a leading program in the nation at the turn of this century. Professor Prescott's name as author appeared on more than 200 research papers. His monograph The Chemical Examination of Alcoholic Liquors was considered the authoritative work for many decades. The renown of the department was further augmented by his election to the national presidency of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advanced Sciences.

Under the leadership of Professor Gomberg, the department continued to flourish in the 1920s and 1930s. Many significant scientific discoveries in chemical research, particularly in the field of organic chemistry, were made during that period. As one of the world's foremost scholars in the field of organic chemistry, Gomberg also served as president of the American Chemical Society (1931-32).

Professors Werner Emmanuel Bachmann and Kasimir Fajans were probably the two most significant figures in the chemistry department after Professor Gomberg's retirement in 1936. Bachmann (one of Gomberg's most brilliant Ph.D. students) achieved great fame for his development during World War II of the high explosive "RDX," which was fifty percent more powerful than TNT. His work on a large set of "free radicals," the chemical term for the fundamental parts of a compound, completely upset the theories of an eminent German scientist, which were widely accepted until Professor Bachmann's discovery. With the assistance of two young chemists at Michigan, he also synthesized the "sex hormone," "equilenin." That was the first time that process was accomplished in a laboratory. Widely recognized as one of the greatest chemists in the world, Bachmann also served as chairman of the division of organic chemistry of the American Chemical Society (1939).

Professor Fajans came to the university in 1936 after serving 17 years as a professor of chemistry, and three years as the director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the University of Munich, Germany. Professor Fajans's studies on radioactivity established the radioactivity displacement laws (Fajans-Soddy Displacement Laws) and helped place radioelements in the periodic system. The Fajans-Paneth-Hahn rule resulted from his work on the precipitation and absorption of radioelements and dye-ions. With Oswald Gohring, he also discovered the Uranium x2 form of protactinium-234. Fajans was known among scientists as one of the world's leading teachers and investigators.

Although the untimely death of Professor Bachmann in 1951 and the retirement of Professor Fajans in 1957 were a significant loss to the department, it was still able to maintain its leadership position in the nation with such outstanding scholars as Robert Elderfield, Philip Elving, Richard Bernstein and Lawrence Brockway on its faculty. In the following two decades, however, with the rapid growth in student enrollment, the department was faced with the increasingly pressing need for additional teaching and research facilities to accommodate more students and staff members. Lack of adequate laboratory space and facilities, together with the department's post-World War II policy of not recruiting senior faculty unavoidably led to a gradual decline in research activities.

After an extensive review of the program in the mid- 1980s, the university decided to launch a campaign to revitalize the department. The completion of the $45 million Henry Willard Dow Laboratory in 1989, the successful recruitment of a dozen highly talented assistant professors (considered the best in the nation as a group) and the landing of several outstanding senior professors in recent years helped the department to regain its fame as a national leader in chemistry education and research.

Chairs of the Department of Chemistry

1927-1936 Moses Gomberg
1936-1948 Chester S. Schoepfle
1948-1966 Leigh C. Anderson
1966-1972 Charles G. Overberger
1972-1983 Thomas M. Dunn
1983-1986 Arthur J. Ashe III
1986-1991 David M. Curtis
1991-1997 Robert L. Kuczkowski
1997-2002 J. P. Marino
2002-2004 William R. Roush
2004-2009 Carol Ann Fierke
2009-2010 Mark E. Meyerhoff (acting)
2010-2015 Carol Ann Fierke
2015- Robert Kennedy

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Department of Chemistry records include scattered early documents, records of experiments, 1885-1909, committee minutes, building files, personnel records, enrollment statistics, records of colloquia, lectures and symposia, and Center for Catalysis and Surface Science Files. The records of the Department of Chemistry measure 5.0 linear feet and date from 1866 to 1994. The bulk of the materials, however, are from 1934 to 1994.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • Catalysis.
  • Chemistry.
  • Gomberg, Moses, 1866-1947.
  • Prescott, A. B. (Albert Benjamin), 1832-1905.
  • University of Michigan. Dept. of Chemistry.
  • Chemistry Building (University of Michigan)
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Historical Files 1866-1945 [series]

The HISTORICAL FILES series documents the early history and research activities of the Chemistry Department. It consists of 7 files: Early Records, Candid Camera Record, Examinations, Experiment Records, Histories, Laboratory Manuals and the Outstanding Achievement Award Nomination of G. Frederick. The Early Records, 1866-1936 (0.1 linear feet), contain scattered correspondence relating mainly to appointments and funding requests. The Candid Camera Record file (1947-1948) includes one volume of the Candid Camera publication, featuring photographs of students, faculty and staff in the Chemistry Department. The Examinations file has nearly complete runs of early chemistry examinations, including those for general chemistry, physical chemistry, and theoretical and physical chemistry. The Experiment Records, 1885-1909, (0.1 linear feet, and 2 oversized volumes), contains experiment ledgers and reports completed by the faculty and students. The History file contains a departmental history written by chemistry professor Leigh C. Anderson. Laboratory Manuals includes manuals written by Anderson and Werner Bachmann and used in organic chemistry classes in 1939, 1942, and 1945. The manuals include many handwritten notes and class schedules. Finally, the Outstanding Achievement Award Nomination of G. Frederick Smith file contains the Chemistry Department's nomination of G. Frederick Smith for the alumni outstanding achievement award and includes correspondence between Smith and department chair Thomas Dunn.

Box   1  
Early Records 1866-1936
Box   1  
Candid Camera Record 1947-1948
 
Examinations
Box   1  
General Chemistry 1901, 1907-1936
Box   1  
Physical Chemistry 1899-1907
Box   1  
Theoretical and Physical Chemistry 1911-1935
Oversize Volume   1  
Experiment Ledger 1885-1898
Oversize Volume   2  
Experiment Ledger 1899-1909
Box   1  
History
 
Laboratory Manuals
Box   1  
1939
Box   1  
1942
Box   1  
1945
Box   1  
Outstanding Achievement Award Nomination of G. Frederick Smith 1974-1976
 
Administrative Files [series]

ADMINISTRATIVE FILES have been further divided into six subseries, which cover almost every major aspect of the department's day-to-day operation: Departmental Minutes, Facility Files, Financial Files, Personnel Files, Program Reviews, and Student Statistics.

 
Departmental Meeting Minutes [subseries]

The Departmental Meetings Minutes subseries (2.4 linear feet) contains minutes created by various committees within the department, namely, the Executive Committee, Faculty Affairs Committee, Policy Committee, Professor's Committee, and minutes of Faculty Meetings (also known as Staff Luncheon Meetings). The files are arranged alphabetically by committee. Of particular interest are the Faculty Meeting minutes, which date from 1930 to 1994 and are nearly complete. They are rich sources of information about the administrative history of the department.

Box   1  
Curriculum Committee 1978, 1981, 1986-1987, 1991 (2 folders)
Box   1  
Executive Committee 1983-1991 (13 folders)
Box   1  
Faculty Affairs Committee 1970-1988 (2 folders)
Box   1  
Faculty Meetings (Staff Luncheon Meetings) 1930-1952 (3 folders)
Box   2  
Faculty Meetings (Staff Luncheon Meetings) 1953-1989 (27 folders)
Box   3  
Faculty Meetings (Staff Luncheon Meetings) 1990-1994 (5 folders)
Box   3  
Physical Chemistry Cluster 1965-1976
Box   3  
Policy Committee 1971-1980 (4 folders)
Box   3  
Professor's Committee 1963-1970 (3 folders)
 
Facility Files [subseries]

The Facility Files subseries, 1966-1992 (0.3 linear feet), is arranged alphabetically by subject. It consists of correspondence, memoranda and reports relating to buildings, space requirements, equipment needs and development of the Chemistry Library.

 
Buildings and Space Requirements
Box   3  
Correspondence and Memoranda 1966-1989 (2 folders)
Box   3  
Proposals 1966-1988
Box   3  
Reports 1966-1990
 
Chemistry Library/Science Library
Box   3  
Correspondence 1988-1992
Box   3  
Holdings circa 1978
Box   3  
Reports 1989-1992
Box   3  
Equipment Needs 1962-1963, 1967-1970 (3 folders)
 
Financial Files [subseries]

The subseries, Financial Files, 1913-1986 (0.5 linear feet), contains records (data and memoranda) relating to budgets. There is a considerable gap between the years 1949 to 1983. Materials in this subseries are arranged chronologically.

 
Budget Data
Box   3  
1913-1921
Box   3  
1928-1932
Box   4  
Budget Data
Box   4  
1933-1940
Box   4  
1947-1948
Box   4  
1983-1985
Box   4  
1984-1985
Box   4  
Summer Session 1918-1940 (2 folders)
Box   4  
Memorandums 1915-1948, 1981-1986 (3 folders)
 
Personnel Files 1931-1991 [subseries]

The Personnel Files subseries, 1931-1991 (1.0 linear feet), is also arranged alphabetically by subject. It comprises administrative information sheets about faculty and teaching assistants, appointment letters and memoranda, promotion recommendations, sabbatical leave applications and reports, and teaching schedules. Of note are sabbatical leave reports. These detailed reports reflect the dynamic scholarly exchange between the Michigan faculty and their colleagues around the world.

Box   4  
Administrative Information Sheets 1931-1942, 1945-1948 (13 folders)
Box   4  
Appointment Letters and Memoranda 1931-1937 (6 folders)
Box   5  
Appointment Letters and Memoranda 1938-1942 (4 folders)
Box   5  
Departmental Personnel Lists 1947-1991 (4 folders)
  Vault  
Promotion Recommendations 1984-1985
 
Sabbatical Leave
Box   5  
Applications 1973-1986
Box   5  
Reports 1975-1986
Box   5  
Teaching Schedules 1965-1989 (2 folders)
 
Program Review Records 1984 [subseries]

The Program Review Files subseries, 1984 (0.1 linear feet), is arranged chronologically and contains records relating to the department's external program review in 1984 and the department's related 5-year planning. Of special interest is the external review, which paints a broad picture of the chemistry program at Michigan.

Box   5  
External Program Review 1984 (2 folders)
Box   5  
Department's 5 year Planning 1982-1991
 
Student Statistic 1927-1939, 1950-1986 [subseries]

The Student Statistics subseries, 1927-1939, 1950-1986 (0.1 linear feet), contains student enrollment statistics. Materials in this subseries are arranged chronologically.

Box   5  
Enrollment Statistics 1927-1939, 1950-1986 (4 folders)
 
Colloquia, Lectures and Symposia 1920-1938, 1977-1992 [series]

The COLLOQUIA, LECTURES AND SYMPOSIA series, which consists of three files, documents some of the important academic and research activities of the department.

The Bachmann Memorial Lectures, 1977-1992 (0.1 linear feet), contains correspondence and speech announcements relating to the lectures since 1977. Materials in this subseries are arranged chronologically.

Chemistry Colloquium, 1922-1938 (0.1 linear feet), comprises records (general information, membership information and meeting records) of the Chemistry Colloquium, an academic seminar group consisting of both faculty and graduate students. Materials in this subseries are arranged chronologically.

The Symposia file, 1989-1992 (0.1 linear feet), consists of two parts: records relating to the Dow Chemical Laboratory Dedication Symposium and the Smith Symposium (named in honor of Professor Peter Smith). The Dow Chemical Lab Symposium folders, which consist of correspondence and speeches, are arranged chronologically by subject. Materials in the Smith Symposium (mainly correspondence) is arranged chronologically.

 
Chemistry Colloquium
Box   5  
General 1922-1934
Box   5  
Membership 1925-1935
Box   5  
Records of the Colloquium Meetings 1922-1938
 
Bachmann Memorial Lectures
Box   5  
Correspondence and Announcements 1977-1992 (2 folders)
 
Symposia
Box   5  
Dow Chemical Lab Dedication Symposium 1988-1989 (3 folders)
Box   5  
Smith Symposium 1991-1992
 
Center for Catalysis and Surface Scientific Files 1981-1991 [series]

The CENTER FOR CATALYSIS AND SURFACE SCIENCE FILES, 1981-1991 (0.1 linear feet), consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports relating to the Center for Catalysis and Surface Science, a chemical research institute affiliated with the chemistry department designed to provide a forum for academic and industrial scientists to pursue common interests in basic and applied research.

Box   5  
Correspondence and Memoranda 1981-1991
Box   5  
General 1981-1990
 
Curriculum Files [series]

The CURRICULUM FILES, 1969-1999 (0.3 linear feet), consists of material organized around the content and administration of the Department of Chemistry's academic program. Courses that are strongly represented include Analytical Chemistry, Advanced Instrumentation, and an honors section of Quantitative Analysis. Memorandums concerning course content and general departmental business, syllabi, and numerous tests, including doctoral qualifying examinations, are also included in this series.

Box   6  
Administrative 1960-1971
Box   6  
Advanced Instrumentation 1974, 1999
Box   6  
Analytical Chemistry 1969-1970
Box   6  
Chem. 282, Honors Quantitative Analysis 1978
Box   6  
Exams 1969-1996 (2 folders)
Box   6  
Qualifying Exams 1970, 1978
Box   6  
Syllabi 1969-1999
 
Werner E. Bachman [series]

The WERNER E. BACHMAN series, 1943-1945 (0.2 linear feet) contains a folder of research notes, reports, memos, and letters regarding research conducted by Bachman during World War II relating to penicillin and anti-malarial projects.

Box   6  
Werner E. Bachman WWII Research 1943-1945
 
Photographs [series]

The PHOTOGRAPHS series, 1986-1989 (0.5 linear feet) is comprised of photographic prints relating to the construction of the new Chemistry Building (Willard Henry Dow Laboratory) starting with the groundbreaking in 1986 and continuing through to the dedication in 1989. The photographs chart the evolution of the building through various stages of construction.

Box   6  
William H. Dow Laboratory Opening 1989
Box   6  
William H. Dow Groundbreaking 1986
Box   6  
William H. Dow Building Construction 1987-1989 (3 folders)
Box   6  
"The New Chemistry Building: A Photographic History of its Construction," 1986-1989
Box   6  
Photographs of Chemistry Building Construction 1987
 
Publications [series]

The PUBLICATIONS series is comprised of publications printed by the Department of Chemistry. Publications include departmental newsletters, recruiting and admission material, reports, laboratory manuals, history and brochures.

Box   7  
Bibliographies
Box   7  
Scientific Publications of the Members of the Department of Chemistry 1972-1990 (scattered), 1992-2013 (complete)
 
Brochures
Box   7  
Graduate Study in Chemistry 1956-1996 (scattered dates)
Box   7  
Chemistry 1953-1994, undated
Box   7  
General
 
Bulletins
Box   7  
Announcements of Courses in Chemistry 1917-1922
Box   7  
Laboratory of Analytical and Applied Chemistry circa 1890s
Box   7  
Organic Chemistry Schedule of Lectures in the Department of Medicine and Surgery 1884
 
Histories
Box   7  
The Discovery of Organic Free Radicals by Moses Gomberg 2000
Box   7  
Invitations
 
Manuals
Box   7  
A Laboratory Manual for general Chemistry by Members of the Staff of General Chemistry of the University of Michigan 1950
Box   7  
Chemistry Handbook for Undergraduate Majors
Box   7  
Graduate Student and Faculty Handbook 1972
Box   7  
Investigations in General Chemistry edited by Alice S. Cohen 1977
 
Newsletters
Box   7  
Letter to Alumni(ae) 1975-1986
Box   7  
Newsletter 1988-2010, 2012-2013 (2 folders)
 
Programs
Box   7  
Willard Henry Dow Laboratory 1989
Box   7  
150 Years of Chemistry at Michigan 2007
 
Prospectus
Box   7  
The Chemical Sciences Project A Notebook of Commemorative Naming Opportunities, ca 1985
Box   7  
Keeping Michigan First in Chemical Sciences
Box   7  
Prospectus for a Chemical Sciences Building 1979
 
Reports
Box   7  
Annual Report of the Activities of the Macromolecular Research Center
Box   7  
Nuclear Chemical Research (Project Number 7, US Atomic Energy Commission 1955-1962