100 years of creating a common language for chemistry and beyond
One of the greatest achievements of chemistry in the twentieth century was the development of a common language to name and represent everything related to chemistry. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this triumph of global cooperation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, at the peak of the development of the chemical industry, our discipline lacked a common way of designating the different chemical compounds, which greatly hampered research, teaching and trade.
Motivated by the idea of overcoming this limitation, chemists from both industry and academy joined together some 100 years ago to create the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. Thanks to the vision and hard work of those men and women, today we enjoy a common language for chemistry. This is evident every time we talk with colleagues from a different country. A few months ago, to give just one example, I gave a lecture in Tokyo. As I don’t speak Japanese, I gave my talk in English – but the chemical formulas and the molecule structures shown in my presentation did not require translation as any chemist present in the room understood what those meant, regardless of their mother tongue.
But during its first 100 years of history, IUPAC has done much more than nomenclature and terminology. Perhaps the best-known activity of the Union is to give a name and a symbol to each chemical element of the periodic table of which this year we celebrate its International Year. That is why 2019 is such a special year for all chemists and why we have organised so many activities. I would like to highlight here the Periodic Table Challenge, an online contest about the periodic table in which participants can win an original periodic table signed by a Nobel laureate. This year we are also recognising those young chemists who have stood out for their work with a chemical element in an initiative that we have called The Periodic Table of Younger Chemists.
But at IUPAC we do many more things. We make available all kinds of critically important data ranging from atomic weights to kinetic, solubility and thermodynamic constants. We are committed to chemistry education and carry out many projects to promote chemistry throughout the world keeping in mind our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, chemical safety, and diversity.
I do not want to end without thanking all those people and institutions that make possible the celebration of the IUPAC Centennial and the International Year of the Periodic Table by organising all kinds of activities, competitions, and conferences all around the world. I also want to take this opportunity to thanks those who organised and took part in the World Chemistry Congress and IUPAC General Assembly that we just had in Paris this July, where we celebrated IUPAC´s 100 birthday and countless activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. For those who want to learn more about all of these exciting opportunities, you can find more information at http://iupac.org/100 and http://www.iypt2019.org/ and of course you can follow us on our social media channels. Happy International Year of the Periodic Table!
Javier Garcia Martinez
Professor of Chemistry, University of Alicante, Spain
IUPAC, President-elect for the 2022-2023 biennium
Are you joining us in Bucharest?
Chemists from Europe with guests from beyond it will gather this year in October in Bucharest. If you have not yet registered for the EuChemS General Assembly meeting and/or for EuChemS Professional Networks meeting, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best is to register before you go on holidays, while note the deadline: 6 September 2019.