ACS designates new International Historic Chemical Landmark in North Carolina and Ottawa

October 13, 1999

Joins Canadian Society for Chemistry in honoring key acetylene breakthrough, and development of subsequent commercial processes

Washington, DC-American Chemical Society President Edel Wasserman today announced that ACS has joined with the Canadian Society for Chemistry to designate a chemical breakthrough by a Canadian entrepreneur as a new International Historic Chemical Landmark.The designation will be marked October 15 with a ceremony in Ottawa.

In 1892, Thomas L. Willson accidentally discovered the electric-arc process for making calcium carbide, which combines with water to make acetylene gas. His discovery transformed a number of key chemical applications, among them, industrial welding and lighting for homes, mines, railways and marine buoys. In addition, the breakthrough became a foundation of the synthetic organic chemical industry.

On October 15, Wasserman will join Judith C. Poë, President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, in honoring Willson's breakthrough at a ceremony in Ottawa, near the site of Willson's former home and laboratory. Plaques will be placed on the Ottawa site. A plaque marks the Eden, North Carolina site of the discovery as well.

"Willson's breakthrough is truly worthy of designation as an international chemical landmark," said Wasserman. "By making it possible to harness acetylene for commercial use, Willson dramatically changed the metal industries. What once took ship builders weeks of hard labor to accomplish was suddenly achievable in minutes. The breakthrough was also the starting point for the synthesis of a variety of organic materials and the beginning of the worldwide carbide industry."

The American Chemical Society has for many years designated important American chemistry-related accomplishments as National Historic Chemical Landmarks. In conjunction with this year's International Chemistry Celebration, ACS is honoring a variety of international landmarks in coordination with other national chemical societies.

"Breakthroughs in chemistry like Willson's and like the others we have honored this year know no geographic or political boundaries," Wasserman said. "Their impact is felt the world over, in thousands of ways large and small."
A nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy, and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. ( )

American Chemical Society

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