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Chemistry International

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Volume 41, Issue 3


IUPAC Engagement in the Instrumental Revolution

Carsten Reinhardt
Published Online: 2019-06-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0312


In the second half of the Twentieth Century, the chemical and molecular sciences experienced a deep transformation with regard to the types of research instruments used, and the associated methods involved. Historians have coined this development the Instrumental Revolution, and even described it as the Second Chemical Revolution [1]. With the latter notion, they referred to the First Chemical Revolution of the late eighteenth century, when Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and his allies transformed chemistry’s theoretical framework along with its nomenclature, creating modern chemistry. The “second” chemical revolution of the twentieth century had an equally deep impact on chemistry’s theoretical base, linking chemistry to quantum physics, and expanding its range into the life sciences and technologies, the material sciences, and engineering. However, the related changes in terminology and nomenclature have largely escaped the historian’s attention, and this might explain why IUPAC’s role in the Instrumental Revolution has not been investigated in any detail. In the following, I will first briefly describe the Instrumental Revolution, and its main impact on chemistry and related fields, before sketching IUPAC’s role in facilitating and enhancing it [2].


  • 1.

    Peter J. T. Morris, ed., From Classical to Modern Chemistry. The Instrumental Revolution, Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry 2002; Carsten Reinhardt, Shifting and Rearranging. Physical Methods and the Transformation of Modern Chemistry, Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications 2006.Google Scholar

  • 2.

    The first part of this is based on C. Reinhardt, “Forschungstechnologien im 20. Jahrhundert. Transfer und Transformationen,” in Klaus Hentschel, ed., Zur Geschichte von Forschungstechnologien. Generizität – Interstitialität – Transfer, Diepholz: GNT-Verlag 2012, pp. 277-307. (The author wishes to thank Danielle Fauque for crucial help in preparing this article.)Google Scholar

  • 3.

    National Science Foundation (NSF), MPE Divisional Committee, Chairman Thomas K. Sherwood to Bronk and Waterman, 21 January 1957. National Archives Record Administration (NARA), RG 307, Office of the Director, General Records, 1949-63, 1960-61, Box 48, folder Division of M, P, and ES.Google Scholar

  • 4.

    W. A. Noyes, H.W. Thompson, “The organization and functions of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (I.U.P.A.C.),” PAC 1 (1960), 5-10, https://doi.org/10.1351/pac196001010005

  • 5.

    Based on IUPAC Comptes Rendus 1955-1961.Google Scholar

  • 6.

    Anon., “Preliminary Recommendations on nomenclature and presentation of data in gas chromatography,” PAC 1 (1960), 177-186, https://doi.org/10.1351/pac196001010177

  • 7.

    See the list in H.M.N.H. Irving, H. Freiser, T. S. West, Compendium of Analytical Nomenclature. Definitive Rules 1977, Oxford: Pergamon Press 1978, pp. 5-6.Google Scholar

  • 8.

    “Commission on Molecular Structure and Spectroscopy (I.5)”, CMSS report, in IUPAC Comptes Rendus XXVI Conference, Washington DC, 15-24 July 1971, pp. 126-128Google Scholar

  • 9.

    R. C. Lord, “CMSS (I.5)”, in IUPAC Comptes Rendus XXII Conference, London, 5-9 July 1963, pp. 185-186Google Scholar

  • 10.

    “CMSS (I.5)”, report, in IUPAC Comptes Rendus, 28th Conference, Madrid, 2-11 Sept 1975, part B, pp. 193-195. Google Scholar

  • 11.

    Lloyd Currie, “Nomenclature in evaluation of analytical methods including detection and quantification capabilities (IUPAC Recommendations 1995),” PAC 67 (1995), 1699-1723; https://doi.org/10.1351/pac199567101699

  • 12.

    David Moore, “IUPAC News, The Analytical Chemistry Division,” Chem Int 24(4) (2002), 16-19, https://doi.org/10.1515/ci.2002.24.4.16b

About the article

Carsten Reinhardt

Carsten Reinhardt, < > is Professor for Historical Studies of Science, University of Bielefeld.

Published Online: 2019-06-14

Published in Print: 2019-07-01

Citation Information: Chemistry International, Volume 41, Issue 3, Pages 35–38, ISSN (Online) 1365-2192, ISSN (Print) 0193-6484, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ci-2019-0312.

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©2019 IUPAC & De Gruyter. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For more information, please visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.Get Permission

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