Home of two Nobel laureates, Purdue's Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry named ACS national historic chemical landmark

April 23, 2013  

Mary Schott

Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University's R.B. Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry building will be dedicated as a National Historic Chemical Landmark at 4 p.m. on Friday (April 26).

Timothy Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and Purdue provost, and Marinda Li Wu, president of the American Chemical Society (ACS), will speak at the celebration, which will be held on the building's south steps. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested at http://www.chem.purdue.edu/Wetherill. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony.

ACS selected the building for this honor because of its more than 80 years of service as a center for chemical education and research in the United States and the advances made by generations of chemists, chemical engineers and renowned faculty, according to the citation.

"The research of Purdue faculty in organic chemical synthesis provides chemists worldwide with the tools to make complex molecules with precise structures - molecules that are used to produce a wide range of products that we use every day, from pharmaceuticals to agricultural chemicals, pheromones to plastics, and numerous other useful products," said Wu. "I truly believe there is no profession that can have a greater impact on human life than chemistry, and techniques such as those developed at Purdue make chemistry's achievements possible."

The society will present a commemorative plaque and distribute a historical booklet at the dedication ceremony. In addition, the Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry will be featured on the society's Landmarks website.

"The Wetherill building has been home to renowned faculty over the years, including Nobel laureates Herbert C. Brown and Ei-ichi Negishi," said George Bodner, the Arthur Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. "The work done here has led to life-saving pharmaceuticals, important agricultural chemicals, and new methods to detect cancer, food-borne pathogens and explosives residue. In recent years, significant advances have been made in drug discovery for devastating diseases including HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's and cancer, and the department is a national leader in chemistry education."

Negishi won the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing chemical reactions that allow for easy and efficient synthesis of complex organic compounds that are used in everything from pharmaceuticals to electronics.

Brown won the 1979 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work with boron compounds that opened new avenues in academic and industrial chemistry and is used in the synthesis of many medications to this day.

The building is named for local physician and lecturer Dr. Richard Benbridge Wetherill and was constructed in phases between 1928 and 1955. More information about the history of the Department of Chemistry is available at: http://www.chem.purdue.edu/about_us/Facts.asp

ACS established the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program in 1992 to recognize seminal events in the history of chemistry and to increase awareness of the contributions of chemistry to the well-being of society.

The R.B. Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry joins three other National Historic Chemical Landmarks in Indiana including: Percy Julian's synthesis of physostigmine, an important treatment for glaucoma, at DePauw University in Greencastle; the development of Rumsford baking powder, now owned by Clabber Girl Corp. in Terre Haute; and the development of diagnostic test strips that led to the self-treatment of diabetes and kidney disease at Miles Laboratories in Elkhart. For more information about the program, visit www.acs.org/landmarks.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. 

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu 

Sources: Steve Scherer, 765-494-5204, scherer@purdue.edu

George Bodner, 765-494-5313, gmbodner@purdue.edu

Keith Lindblom, 202-731-8821, k_lindblom@acs.org

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