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Archiving the AACC, clinical chemists, and clinical chemistry.

Dr. Meites sends the following information. It is especially important for all those interested in the archiving of materials that may be useful to historians of science and medicine.

Clinical chemists contribute to their field both scientifically and professionally. Scientific pursuits lead to formal publications, seminars, workshops, and the like, whereas professional activities involve staging meetings and providing services to local sections, divisions, committees, and AACC offices. What records should we save of all of this? Why should we save them? How do we do it? Does anyone even care? We wish to answer these questions in two short parts. The first concerns the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) and the services it offers to the chemical community and the public. The second covers the specifics of what we should preserve of our past as scientists and professionals, and how to work with CHF.


The prospects for preserving the history of clinical chemistry received a remarkable boost with the founding of the solidly funded and housed CHF. CHF offers library, historical, and educational services; publications; public affairs; and specific resources. Its 27 Affiliate organizational members represent the vast majority of US chemists. The AACC became an affiliate in 1991; Donald S. Young is our representative to CHF's Heritage Council, which advises the president of CHF and its staff of approximately 50 people on program issues (1).

The Center of the History of Chemistry (CHOC) was established in 1982 by a joint action of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Arnold Thackray, Professor of History in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, was named director for the Center. CHOC's steady mission, to "advance the heritage and public understanding of the chemical and molecular sciences" (2), has attracted numerous enthusiastic supporters. The first CHOC advisory board had 17 distinguished faculty and industrial members, including three Nobel laureates.

The development of CHOC was strengthened remarkably by philanthropy, particularly from two donors: Arnold Beckman, who provided funding to establish the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry; and the Othmers, Donald and Mildred, for whom the library devoted to chemical history is named. After a change of name in 1992, the center became the CHF, which serves as an umbrella organization for the Beckman Center and the Othmer Library. Its current permanent site at 315 Chestnut St., in the historic old city section of Philadelphia, was purchased in 1995.

CHF's mission, to preserve and make known the history and heritage of the chemical sciences and chemical process industries, is served through the Beckman Center's scholarly research and publications, the informational resources offered through the Othmer Library, and the Foundations quarterly publication, Chemical Heritage. The core of the Othmer Library's collection includes the Chemist's Club Library, donated in 1988, and scores of donations and special purchases. The AACC has provided ~500 books last housed in its national office.

The CHF is home to the archives of selected American Chemical Society divisions and the records of IUPAC and the Gordon Research Conferences. The archives also possess the papers of Michael Somogyi and Samuel Natelson. A former AACC officer has submitted a large number of AACC documents and communications. The History Division has also sent valuable informative records of its activities. Currently in preparation for the CHF is a comprehensive collection of historical and documentary information amassed by the now-departed past-AACC president and pioneer historian of clinical chemistry, Wendell T. Caraway. All of this gathered material is merely a prelude to what awaits your attention, however, as we shall describe in the second part of this discussion.

For more information on CHF and its activities, visit CHF on the web at


Archiving must include all interrelated foci of clinical chemical activity. These include (a) the AACC national office, involving primarily non-clinical chemists, from the executive vice presidents on down; (b) the AACC officers and the Boards of Directors; (c) all AACC-sponsored groups, such as Divisions, committees, commissions, and the like, as well as special appointments for individuals; (d) biographical materials of outstanding clinical chemical scientists and eminent professional leaders; (e) Local Sections and regional activities; historical instrumentation unique to or used mainly in clinical chemistry, from manual to computerized automated analysis; (g) photographs, formal and informal, of identified individuals, groups, and committees related to clinical chemical activities; (h) recordings of all kinds, including autobiographies, lectures, interviews, and oral histories, to name a few.

In short, if you did something for the AACC (local or national) or for the field of clinical chemistry, we need to preserve it by all means available.

Unlike library materials, which are published in volume and available in many locations, archival materials are unique and irreplaceable. Archives encompass the paper record of an individual or institution and may even include artifacts that serve as a material record of an individual or an institutional history. However, this does not mean that every unique piece of material is sufficient to be archived. If you have materials that you would like considered for inclusion into the AACC archive, please contact the CHF Archivist for assistance.

Books are welcomed additions to the Othmer Library. As a library whose specialty is history, the Othmer Library often collects those volumes that universities, other libraries, or individuals no longer want. If you believe you have books or periodicals that you would like to donate to the Othmer Library, please send a list to the Director to avoid duplication and save on mailing costs.

The preferred situation is that the donor or "bequester" pays for shipment and preservation of the materials involved. For large shipments, however, contact CHF for further details.


Address: Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19106-2702; Phone 215-9252222; fax 215-925-1954.

Archives: c/o Susan G. Hamson, Archivist. Phone 215-925-2222, extension 306; fax 215-925-6195; e-mail

Library: c/o Elizabeth Swan, Director. Phone 215-925-2222, extension 226; fax 215-925-1954; e-mail

Compiled by David E. Bruns, Editor (


(1.) Meites S, Bermes EW. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Chem Heritage 2002; 19:6-7.

(2.) The history of the CHF. Chem Heritage 2000;18: 16-48.

Samuel Meites [1] *

Susan G. Hamson [2]

[1] Children's Hospital Clinical Laboratory 700 Children's Dr. Columbus, OH 43205

[2] Chemical Heritage Foundation 315 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19106-2702

* Author for correspondence: fax 614722-5308; e-mail
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Inc.
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Title Annotation:The Clinical Chemist
Author:Meites, Samuel; Hamson, Susan G.
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:2003 Critical and Point-of-Care Testing Research grant.
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