Royal Society of Chemistry


Web pages prepared by Dr G P Moss, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, England. E-mail:

Chairman: Dr J A Hudson, Graythwaite, Loweswater, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 0SU, England. E-mail:

Secretary: Dr J Nicholson, 52 Buckingham Road, Hampton Middx TW12 3JG, England. E-mail:

Treasurer: Dr P J T Morris, 5 Helford Way, Upminster, Essex RM14 1RJ

Membership: Prof W P Griffith, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AZ, England, E-mail:]

Newsletter Editor: Dr Anna Simmons, Epsom Lodge, La Grande Route de St Jean, St John, Jersey, JE3 4FL

The Historical Group exists to encourage an interest in the history of chemistry and chemical industry among members of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and others. Membership is open to non-members of the RSC and embraces a wide range from those whose interest in the history of chemistry is a hobby to teachers of chemistry at all levels and professional historians.

The Group holds twice yearly meetings when academic papers are read and discussed. Summaries of papers read at these meetings are included in the Historical Group Newsletter along with reviews of recent books in the subject and news of other meetings and forthcoming events. The Newsletter is published twice yearly. Contributions of not more than 500 words on topics of current interest in the history of chemistry are invited for inclusion at the discretion of the Editor. The contents of the last issue, Winter 2018, are given below with a link to the PDF (960 KB).

Next Meeting

The next meeting will be on "150th Anniversary of the Birth of Fritz Haber and of the First Synthesis of Alizarin" will be held on Wednesday, 17 October 2018 at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BA [Click here for a map of the location of Burlington House which is labelled "The Royal Acad of Arts" (As well as the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House also contains the Geological Society, Linnean Society, Royal Astronomical Society and Society of Antiquaries)].

The Wheeler Lecture on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Fritz Haber
and the History of Dyes on the 150th Anniversary of the Synthesis of Alizarin


10.00Registration and tea or coffee
   First Session Other Dyes Chairman: John Hudson
10.30Welcome (Dr Peter Morris, Treasurer, Historical Group)
10.35David Peggie (National Gallery)
   Pigments from natural dyes: their manufacture and use in paintings at the National Gallery
11.05Matthew Paskins (LSE)
   Dye chemistry and substitutes: Sir Robert Robinson between industry and government 1922-1947
11.35J. Sergio Seixas de Melo (University of Coimbra)
   In the footsteps of Perkin’s and Caro’s (synthesis of) mauveine
12.05Lunch. This is not provided but there are several pubs and eating places nearby
13.20Historical Group AGM (members only) Tea interval
   Second Session Alizarin Chairman: TBA
13.30Mohammed Shahid (University of Glasgow)
   Turkey red industry in the 19th century: Transition from natural madder to synthetic alizarin.
14.00Vincent Daniels (British Museum)
   Mysteries of the Madder Vat
14.30Alan Dronsfield (University of Derby)
   Madder root to synthetic alizarin — transformations that changed the world
15.00Ernst Homburg (Maastricht University)
   From madder to alizarin: Practicalities concerning the transition from natural to synthetic dyes
15.30Tea Interval
   Wheeler Lecture Chairman: John Hudson
15.50Introduction of Roy MacLeod as the Wheeler Lecturer by John Hudson
16.00Roy MacLeod (University of Sydney)
   Wheeler Lecture: Chemistry in War and Peace: Reflections on the Legacy of Fritz Haber
First Session Alizarin
17.20Concluding remarks by John Hudson
17.30Close of meeting


There is no charge for this meeting, but prior registration is essential. Please register by e-mail with Professor John Nicholson This is expected to be a popular meeting. If having registered, you are unable to attend, please notify Professor Nicholson.

How to join the Historical Group:

If you are a member of the RSC you should contact the Membership Department (01223 432141) quoting your name and membership number. When you have done this please inform the Group's Membership Secretary, Prof W P Griffith, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AZ, England, E-mail:]. Those who are not qualified to join the RSC but who are interested in the history of chemistry are welcome to join the Group at an annual subscription of £12 per annum. Please send your name, address, phone number, email address and a cheque for £12 made out to "The Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group" to Prof W P Griffith, Department of Chemistry, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AZ, England. All members of the Group can download the Newsletter as a PDF. Hard copies are available if ordered in advance.

Other Useful Web pages

The Group maintains contact with colleagues in the Division of the History of Chemistry of the American Chemical Society and the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences.

The Library & Information Centre, Historical Chemistry Information Service.

The Chemical Heritage Foundation.

ACS Historical Division.

The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry.

Details of Nobel Prize winners; portraits; and other details.

List of Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry.

Chemical Heritage Foundation.

History of Pharmacy Forum.

The History of Chemical Engineering.

The Classic Chemistry Page.

Alchemy Home Page.

Historic samples and specimens from the Chemistry Department, Imperial College, London.

History of chemistry in Heidelberg

Science & Civilisation in China Project (Needham Research Institute).

There is a History of Chemistry Mail List or email

To send messages email

Historical Group Newsletter and Summary of Papers
and Occasional Papers

Short articles on the history of chemistry for the Newsletter are welcome and should be sent to the editor, Dr Anna Simmons, Epsom Lodge, La Grande Route de St Jean, St John, Jersey, JE3 4FL Please consult the Instructions for Authors.

Occasional Paper No 10. June 2018

Woodward's Unpublished Letters: revealing, commanding and elegant. Part 2. by Jeffrey I Seeman (The Ninth Wheeler Lecture, Burlington House, 10 May 2017)

For a PDF copy of the Occasional Paper (1.5 MB) click here

No 74. Summer 2018 Newsletter

For a PDF copy of the Newsletter (569 KB) click here


From the Editor

  The History of Dyes

  Minutes of the Forty-Second Annual General Meeting
  Accounts for RSC Historical Group for 2017

  Message from the Retiring Chairman
  Vacancy for Treasurer
  New RSCHG Wheeler Lecture Published Online


  Rutherford's Chemists
  Mitteilungen GDCh-Fachgruppe Geschichte der Chemie, Nr 25
  The Life of William Nicholson (1753-1815)
  Articles on History of Chemistry that you Might Otherwise Miss
  Former Ashgate Titles

  British Society for the History of Pharmacy
  Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry

  Creative Chemistry for Industry: Two Anniversaries - Anthony S. Travis
  The RSC and SCI Joint Colloids Group's Three Awards: the Legacies of Graham, McBain and Rideal - Brian Vincent
  Capsaicin - Chris Cooksey
  Some Thoughts on Henry Moseley: His First and Last Years - Gordon Wood
  Recollections of a Reader: The Famous Echo in the Reading Room of the British Museum - Peter Spargo

  Iwan Rees Morus (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Science (Bill Griffith)
  Sue Durrell (ed.), The Life of William Nicholson, 1753-1815 (Peter Reed)

  Some Chemical Consequences of World War I - John Hudson




Contents of previous Newsletters (1996-2017)

PDFs of previous Newsletters (2010-2017)

PDFs of Occasional Papers 6-10

Biographies of Chemists including Confusing Names 1-3 from Newsletters 1998-9

Last update 2 August, 2018

Return to Royal Society of Chemistry home page.