Courtesy of Professor Maurice Bursey, The University of
North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Appended and edited by Dr. William L. Switzer, North Carolina State
The American Chemical Society was founded in 1876 in New York, then the
center of chemical research in the country.
Local Sections were not started outside of New York until 1890, when Rhode
Island members formed a section. Earlier they had threatened to start a new
chemical society because of the restriction of activities to New York.
The North Carolina Section (1896) was the first in the South. About half
a dozen local sections had been established in the North.
Members of the North Carolina Section in 1896 were mostly professors at
colleges and university and scientists at the North Carolina Experiment Station.
Drive for a section in North Carolina came primarily from Charles Baskerville,
a new professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The first president of the North Carolina Section was Francis Venable, head
of the chemistry department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
He was president for three years, a record so far unmatched by any successor.
The first meeting was in Raleigh, on February 22. Undoubtedly this date
was chosen because it was a school holiday (George Washington's birthday).
Travel to the meeting would have taken a long time. For example, from the
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, attendees would have had to take
the spur train to University Station, then the main railroad line through
Durham to Raleigh!
The program was quite extensive. Several members doing their own research
gave research reports on their work.
At first the North Carolina Section's area covered the whole state. Meetings
were held all over the state accessible by train in spite of the substantial
amount of travel involved. Often travel involved one or two night's stay at
the meeting city.
B. W. Kilgore of the Experiment Station was the first government/industrial
chemist to be the section president.
William Withers of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, now North Carolina
State University, was another early president. He was famous for his research
on the poisonous constituent of untreated cotton, gossypol.
In time other Sections were split off from the North Carolina Section, as
the number of chemists grew in North Carolina and demands on their time prevented
far-ranging travel. Today there are five sections or parts of section of the
American Chemical Society in North Carolina, covering all but a few of the
most rural of the 100 counties. As of January 1, 2003, there were 2640 members
in the North Carolina Section alone.
In 1984 and again in 1998, the North Carolina Section hosted Regional ACS
meetings. Attendance was about 1200 and about 2100 at the two meetings.
In 1991, the section began Project SEED, a program to introduce disadvantaged
high school students to research, with five students. In 2005 it served 25
students with a 2-summer research option under the direction of Mr. Ken Cutler
of North Carolina Central University. As of 2005, the number of students graduating
from project SEED and majoring in a chemical science was 62%.
In 2000 and 2001, the section's Younger Chemists Committee was awarded the Chem Luminary Award for Outstanding YCC in ACS.
In 2001, the section's Younger Chemists Committee received the Most Creative Program Award from the ACS.
In 2003, Section efforts resulted in the Natural Products Laboratory at
the Research Triangle Institute being declared a National Chemical History
Landmark in honor of both Dr. Wani and Dr. Wall for their work on Taxol.
In 2004 and again in 2012, the North Carolina Section hosted the Southeast Regional Meeting of the ACS.