Scientific Meetings

Fifty Years of Midland Section ACS Spring and Fall Scientific Meetings

This article was prepared by Wendell Dilling for The Midland Chemist in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Midland Section.

The Midland ACS Section celebrated a milestone in 1994 when it hosted the 50th Fall Scientific Meeting. These meetings have had a varied and interesting history. Early scientific meetings were organized by scientists at The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning Corporation and were attended chiefly by employees of those companies. More recent ACS Fall Scientific Meetings have been organized and attended by college faculty, high school teachers, students, scientists, and other people from a variety of organizations such as Central Michigan University, Saginaw Valley State University, Alma College, Delta College, and Michigan Molecular Institute in addition to Dow and Dow Corning.

These meetings have been held annually since 1945 except during 1974 when a labor strike at Dow prevented the meeting from taking place. As noted below, an extra meeting was held in 1962. Thus the 50th meeting this year is being held in the 50th year. The numbering system for the meetings was first used in 1952 with the 8th Meeting.

The first five meetings (1945-1949) in what became the current numbered series were closed Dow/Dow Corning Scientific Meetings and were not open to ACS members in general. However, the Midland ACS Section was instrumental in the origin of these closed meetings. In 1944 a group of Dow scientists, Julius E. Johnson, Jr., Lewis R. Drake and Jack L. Williams, sought local activities for the ACS to sponsor at Dow’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan. Appreciating the advantages of a closed meeting, they obtained the approval of W.R. Veazey, Dow coordinator of research and patents, to hold several such scientific meetings in the following years. The chairmen of these closed meetings were selected by the ACS Midland Section.

In early 1945, the above-mentioned group and several other Dow researchers became concerned about the lack of a forum to present and learn about technical developments. Researchers had lost an opportunity to interact with others in their fields when the Spring and Fall 1945 National ACS Meetings were canceled owing to wartime conditions. As a result of this concern, an announcement was made at the 201st Midland Section ACS Meeting on March 20, 1945, that a committee consisting of Gordon Clack, Chairman, William F. Mick, Daniel R. Stull, and Jack Williams had been appointed to organize a “Spring Scientific Meeting.” All papers scheduled for this first meeting were by invitation only. Several of the papers had been presented previously at informal discussion group meetings held evenings in Dow facilities.

The Scientific Meeting was scheduled for May 5, 1945. The March 20 section meeting minutes state that “Inasmuch as it has been decided that the spring meeting must, due to lack of time and confidential nature of some of the reports, be a Dow rather than an ACS affair, the Midland Section has severed all official connection with this committee. No announcement of the committee nor of the meeting was or will be made in American Chemical Society meetings here.” Thus the first of the series of Scientific Meetings 49 years ago was not an ACS meeting but was a closed meeting restricted to Dow and Dow Corning employees.

Saturday, May 5, 1945, the date of the first Scientific Meeting also was VE Day. The program consisted of six presentations by seven authors, Norman Wright, “Identification of Organic Compounds By Infrared Spectra,” Vernon A. Stenger, “Recent Developments in the Search for New Elements,” George J. Atchison, “Analysis of Microgram Samples,” Earle R. MacLaughlin, “Water Problems in the Midland Area,” Julius E. Johnson, “Tropical Diseases Encountered in Military Operations,” and William R. Collings and Shailer L. Bass, “Silicones As New Engineering Materials.” Attendance at this first meeting was 120. In addition to the technical talks held in the Dow Auditorium, the program included special exhibits, a luncheon, and entertainment.

The Midland Section was officially involved in planning the next Scientific Meeting, which was called the “Midland Meeting in Miniature.” It was held Saturday, September 15, 1945, in the Dow Auditorium. Archival records indicate this meeting was not included in the numbered list of Midland Section ACS Scientific Meetings. The organizing committee consisted of Lester J. Dankert, General Chairman; Steven S. Drake, Chairman of Committee on Arrangements; Lorraine Boble, Chairman of Entertainment Committee; and George J. Atchison, Chairman of Publicity and Registration Committee.

The technical program, which was printed in the August 25, 1945, issue of Chemical & Engineering News, consisted of 14 papers by 32 authors. A photographic summary of the meeting was printed in “The Chemical News Parade” section of Chemical & Engineering News, October 10, 1945. A report in the archives indicated that a capacity audience (370 registrants) of “scientific men” was present in the meeting room and out in the foyer. The capacity audience attests to the attendees’ desire for scientific interactions with their colleagues. This Saturday was the first in several years that they could call their own because prior to this time Dow had a six-day work week. After an all-day technical session from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., including a luncheon in the Dow Cafeteria, the attendees participated in an ACS dance entitled the Scientific Swing. The dance, arranged by the Entertainment Committee and the Dow Dance Committee, was held in the K of C Hall from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

The first Midland Section Scientific Meeting of the numbered series that was open to all ACS members was the sixth, held on March 18, 1950. The first non-Dow/Dow Corning person to present a paper at one of these meetings was Howard Potter, Professor of Chemistry at Alma College, in 1951. The title of his paper was “The Reaction of Phenyl Lithium and Phenyl Magnesium Bromide with Some Alpha-Beta Unsaturated Sulfur Compounds.”

The first five Scientific Meetings consisted of one morning session and one afternoon session. The next two meetings had two concurrent sessions each. The number of simultaneous sessions reached a maximum of 17 in 1982 and 1983. At least part of each of the first 11 meetings was held in the Dow Auditorium. Other meeting locations were in the Dow library, cafeteria, music building, and Abbott Road Building, the Dow Corning cafeteria and conference rooms, Delta College, Central Intermediate School, and H.H. Dow High School.

The first recorded keynote speaker was Mark E. Putnam, director and general manager of Dow, in 1950. The first non-Dow/Dow Corning keynote speaker was Robert R. White, from the University of Michigan, in 1959. Other notable keynote speakers were Edgar C. Britton (1951), Albert L. Elder (1960), Melvin Calvin (1963), Herbert C. Brown (1964 and 1986), William J. Sparks (1965), W. Albert Noyes, Jr. (1969), William D. Ruckelshaus (1975), Anna J. Harrison (1977), Herbert D. Doan (1983), Fred Basolo (1987), and Ronald Hoffmann (1992).

Several references in the records of the Scientific Meetings show that men dominated the early meetings. For example, the subtitle of an article in 1949 stated that ” . . . Dow and Dow Corning Men Get Together . . .” The 1950 meeting program announced that “Aiding in the registration of visitors will be the female members of the Midland Section . . .” A call for papers for the 10th meeting in 1954 sent to Baker Perkins Company, Saginaw; Leonard Refineries, Alma; Central Michigan College, Mount Pleasant; Alma College, Alma; and Michigan Chemical Corporation, St. Louis; included the following sentence: “We would like to solicit papers from men in your group to be presented at this meeting.”

Eventually, women participated fully in the meetings. Shirley J. Goetz co-authored a paper, “p-Vinylbenzyltrialkyl Ammonium Salts in Vinyl Polymerization,” with Griffin D. Jones, in 1956. Suzanne N. Heiny presented a paper, “Cross-Linking in Solution Polymerizations,” co-authored with Ralph E. Friedrich, in 1958. Janet Paige was the first woman to present a paper, “The Flameproofing of Plastics-A Review of the Literature,” without a male colleague, in 1959. Women have also given keynote addresses, and one has served as general chairperson.

The Dow/Dow Corning Scientific Meetings from 1945 to 1949 and the ACS Scientific Meetings from 1950 to 1961 were held in the spring. In planning for the 1962 (18th) ACS Spring Scientific Meeting, the General Committee decided to make it a closed Dow/Dow Corning Meeting because of problems they saw with the ACS Scientific Meetings. These problems included the difficulty in obtaining an adequate number of cleared papers for the meetings, low attendance by Dow and Dow Corning people, limited attendance by non-Dow/Dow Corning people, failure of the meetings to draw submitted papers by non-Dow/Dow Corning people, and the perceived high cost of the meetings.

Because plans had been made for a closed spring meeting, the Midland Section Executive Committee passed a resolution to hold an open ACS Scientific Meeting in the fall of 1962. A letter written by the 1962 Midland Section chairman, Ethan C. Galloway, to local research directors, stated that “. . . the ACS (Midland) Section heartily endorses an open meeting in some form.” Thus began the Midland Section’s Fall Scientific Meetings, which have continued to the present day.

For many years, oral presentation was the only mode used at Midland Section Scientific Meetings. In 1977 the section initiated poster paper presentations at the Fall Scientific Meetings. Poster papers have become increasingly popular at recent meetings. At the 49th Scientific Meeting in 1993, 31 papers were presented as posters and 33 papers were presented orally.

Many high school students in the Midland Section area have participated in the ACS Project SEED (Summer Educational Experience for the Disadvantaged) program. Traditionally the last event in their program is the presentation of the results of their summer research project on a poster at the Fall Scientific Meeting. The first such presentation, in 1978, was by Ruby J. Brink, Midland High School, and Rebecca D. Mills, Shepherd High School. Their preceptor, Bob A. Howell, and two Central Michigan University students co-authored their poster paper on “Derivatization of Naphthalene and Related Compounds Using (Arene) Tricarbonylchromium Complexes.”

The first printed programs for Scientific Meetings were published in The Brinewell and the Midland Daily News (1945-1950). Large folded sheets were printed for the programs in 1951-1952 and 1954-1959. The first of many printed program booklets appeared in 1953 and then again in 1960. These program booklets continued through 1976. The two-page program outline from the 1966 booklet was printed in The Midland Chemist. In 1977 the program was printed as an integral part of The Midland Chemist. From 1978 to the present the program has been printed as a booklet insert in The Midland Chemist, with extra copies of the booklet printed for other distribution.

Exhibits have been an integral part of most Scientific Meetings starting with the first meeting in 1945. An exhibit of commercial instruments was part of the 1965 meeting. An exposition by commercial vendors of laboratory equipment, supplies, computers, and related items was added to the Scientific Meetings in 1982; these have continued to the present. These vendors have helped support the meetings financially.

In recent years the Midland Section Fall Scientific Meetings have expanded from their traditional role as a forum for the presentation of new research and development results. With the advent of National Chemistry Day in 1987, chemical demonstrations or “magic shows,” primarily for children, were added to the Scientific Meetings. Workshops, presentations, and related activities for pre-college chemical educators were added in 1991.

Sci-Fest was added to the Fall Scientific Meeting in 1993. Sci-Fest is a fun and educational array of hands-on demonstrations and exhibits of Midland Section ACS programs and other science resources in the Midland Section area. It is also a recognition program for members who have served the Midland Section in various capacities. This recognition program replaced the Fall Scientific Meeting Speakers’ Banquet that was formerly held on the Friday evening preceding the Saturday Scientific Meeting.

The Spring and Fall ACS Scientific Meetings have been supported financially from the beginning by The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning Corporation. Additional financial support has been derived from vendor fees.