A Chemical Engineering Timeline

(Please forgive my digression into other topics)


Topics Relating to Chemical Engineering.

A Digression into Miscellaneous Topics (often Chemistry)

Concerning the Rise and Fall of Nations (Wars & Such)

"Enough already... go to the end."

~440 BC: Democritus proposes the concept an of atom to describe the indivisible and indestructible particles that were thought to compose the substance of all things.

~250 BC: Archimedes deduces the law of the levers and could evaluate the relative density of bodies by observing their buoyancy force when immersed in water.

~240 BC: Eratosthenes of Cyrene, director of Alexandria library, calculates the size of Earth by measuring the sun's shadow at noon in Siena (Egypt) and Alexandria.

~70: Pliny the Elder writes his Historia Naturalis, a 39 volume universal encyclopedia, compiling all that was known about the science of his day. Pliny died in Pompeii during the eruption of the volcano the year 79.

~130: Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) writes a mathematical and geographical treatise describing all ancient knowledge concerning distances and locations on the earth. He also developed a star catalogue with 1022 entries. The Ptolomeic model placed the earth as the center of the universe; the sun, stars and planets revolved around the earth in circular orbits. This model remained the standard interpretation for more than a millennium, until the time of Copernicus.

230: Romans create life expectancy table for selling "annuities." Average life expectancy is only 20-30 years.

1347: William Occam enunciates the principle now known as Occam's Razor; "entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary."

1450: Johann Gutenberg receives from Johann Fust an advance of 800 guilders to develop his printing press. Probably the first book printed was a dictionary called Catholicon and then later the Latin Bible.

1492: Cristoforo Colombo (Christopher Columbus) arrives on the shores of a new continent. The continent was later called America in honor to the Italian cartographer Americo Vespucci.

1500: Leonardo da Vinci points out that animals could not survive in an atmosphere that could not support combustion.

1543: Copernicus' heliocentric model of the universe was a revision of the Ptolomeic model which had become too complex and inaccurate to accommodate the known movement of celestial bodies.  

1546: Hieronymus Francastorius wrote on Contagion, the first known discussion of the phenomenon of contagious infection.

1616: William Harvey demonstrates his findings on the circulation of blood. In 1628 he published Exercitacio Anatomica Motu Cardis et Sanguinis in Animalibus, in which he describes the function of the circulatory system, including the notion of the heart as a mechanical pump.

1635: John Winthrop, Jr., opens America's first chemical plant in Boston. They produce saltpeter (used in gunpowder) and alum (used in tanning).

1644: Evangelista Torricelli devises the barometer.

1647 Blaise Pascal determines the pressure of air. He also invents a machine to perform addition and subtraction; the Pascalina, a remote precursor of calculating machines.

1660:  Nicaise Le Febvre, in Traité de la Chymie held that the function of air in the respiration was to purify the blood.

1662: Robert Boyle found that the volume occupied by the same sample of any gas at constant temperature is inversely proportional to the pressure. This statement is known as Boyle's law.

1666: Fire destroys 3/4 of London. Prompts introduction of fire insurance and municipal fire departments.

1683: Antoni von Leewenhoek discovers bacteria.

1687: Isaac Newton publishes his "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Matematica". The whole development of modern science begins with this great book. Newton set the foundations of mechanics, the theory of gravitation, a theory of light, and also concurrently, with Leibnitz, invents the calculus.

1720's: Newcomen's steam engine comes into general use.

1722: Réamur publishes "L'art de covertir le Fer Forgé en Acier" solving the guarded secret of steel-makers; that steel is iron containing just the right amount of carbon.

1749: England begins a Lead-Chamber Method to produce sulfuric acid.

1750's: Classic British Industrial Revolution begins (often said to last until 1830's, however in many ways it continues to this day).

1760's: James Watt improves on the Newcomen Engine.

1761: Joseph Kölreuter publishes reports in artificial hybridization.

1766: Henry Cavendish discovers "inflammable air" (hydrogen), which he concluded to be a combination of water and phlogiston (oxygen), since its combustion yielded water.

1770: John Priestley discovers oxygen and showed that is consumed by animals and produced by the plants.

1772: Daniel Rutherford describes "residual air", the first published description of nitrogen.

1772: Joseph Priestley and Jan Ingenhousz investigate photosynthesis.

1773: Stephen Hales makes the first measurement of blood pressure.

1775:  Antoine Lavoisier shows that fire is due to the exothermic reaction between combustible substances and oxygen. He named a gas discovered by Cavendish, that burned to produce water, hydrogen (Greek, water producer). Also demonstrated that CO2, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid contained oxygen.

1776: The United States declares its independence from England.

1780: Antoine Lavoisier and Pierre Laplace publish their Memoire on Heat, in which they reach the conclusion that respiration is a form of combustion.

1781: The Americans defeat the British in the last major battle of the War of Independence at Yorktown, Virginia.

1781: Tobacco snuff linked to cancer of nasal passage.

1783: Lazaro Spallanzani performs experiments demonstrating that digestion is a chemical process rather than a mechanical grinding of the food.

1785: Charles de Coulomb measures the attractive and repulsive forces of electrically charged particles, and discovered that these forces are inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

1787: Jacques Alexandre César Charles studies the volume changes of gases with changes in temperature.

1787: The U.S. Constitution is written.

1789: Nicholas Le Blanc develops his process for converting common salt into soda ash.

1795: Alessandro Volta shows how to produce electricity by simply putting two different pieces of metal together, with liquid or damp cloth between them, and he thus produced the first electrical current battery.

1798: Thomas Robert Malthus publishes his Essay on the Principles of Population.

1800: Karl Friederich Burdach coins the term "Biology" to denote the study of human morphology, physiology and psychology.

1802: Louis Joseph Gay-Lussac announces the ideal gas law.

1802: Jean Baptiste Lamarck elaborates a theory of evolution based on heritable modification of organs.

1802: The E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (Du Pont) is founded and builds a gunpowder factory along the banks of the Brandywine River near Wilmington, Delaware.

1804: Nicholas Theodore de Saussure publishes experiments on photosynthesis, and described the balanced equation of the process.

1805: Geoges Cuvier publishes his Lessons in Comparative Anatomy.

1806: Louis Nicolas Vauquelin and Pierre Robiquet first isolated an amino acid, asparagine, from asparagus.

1807: Humprey Davy utilizes electric current to prepare metals from molecules such as; sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, strontium and barium.

1809: Jean Baptiste Lamarck investigates the microscopic structure of plants and animals and perceived that cellular tissue is the general matrix of all organization. He also published his Philosophie Zoologique, where emphasized the fundamental unity of life.

1809: Nicolas François Appert, inventor and bacteriologist, demonstrates a procedure for preservation of foods by canning.

1810: Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac deduces the equations of alcoholic fermentation.

1811: Amadeo Avogadro demonstrates that equal volumes of all gases under the same temperature and pressure contain the same number of molecules, and that a fixed number of molecules of any gas will weigh proportional to its molecular weight. Presently the accepted value for the Avogadro number is 6.023 x 10^23 molecules per gram-mol.

1824: Sadi Carnot publishes his Reflexions sur la Puissance Motrice du Feu, setting various outstanding principles that constitute the basis of actual Thermodynamics.

1827: J. B. Fourier outlines atmospheric process by which earth's temperature is altered, using a hothouse analogy.

1828: Friederich Wöhler synthesizes the first organic compound from inorganic compounds, preparing Urea by reacting lead cyanate with ammonia.

1828: Robert Brown first describes Brownian motion.

1830-40: Justus von Liebeg develops techniques in quantitative analysis and applied them to biological systems, and the concept that vital activity could be explained in physicochemical terms.

1831: Michael Faraday shows the relation between magnetism and electricity is dynamic. He showed that not only was magnetism equivalent to electricity in motion but also, conversely, electricity was magnetism in motion. Later, Clerk Maxwell summarized in concise form the electromagnetic theory.

1833: Jean Baptiste Boussingnault recommends the use of iodized salt to cure goiter.

1835: Ralph Waldo Emerson writes the essay Nature.

1835: Jöns Jacob Berzelius demonstrates that the hydrolysis of starch is catalyzed more efficiently by malt diastase than by sulfuric acid. He published the first general theory of chemical catalysis.

1837: René Dutrochet recognizes that chlorophyll was necessary for photosynthesis.

1838: Congress passes act requiring boiler inspection and testing because of frequent steamboat explosions. This is the first US legislation regulating a technology.

1839: Pierre François Verhulst develops the logistic model of population growth.

1840: Publication of Justus von Liebig's Thierchemie which united the field of chemistry and physiology. He pointed out that that organic compounds in plants are synthesized from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while nitrogenous compounds are derived from precursors in the soil.

1842: Julius Robert Mayer enunciates the Law of Conservation of Energy (1st Law of Thermodynamics), after establishing the work equivalent of Heat.

1845: Herman von Helmoltz and Julius Robert Mayer formulate the Laws of Thermodynamics.

1845: Alfred Kolbe synthesizes acetic acid.

1846: Joule demonstrates the equivalence for various forms of energy (heat - electrical - mechanical).  

1846: An ether-soaked sponge became the first successful surgical anesthetic helping to remove a tumor at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

1848: The American-Mexican War comes to a close.

1850's: The first petroleum refinery consisting of a one-barrel still is built in Pittsburgh by Samuel Kier.

1853: Kerosene is extracted from petroleum.

1854: The Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company becomes the first oil company in the US

1854: Colera epidemic in London linked to contaminated water by Dr. John Snow. The removal of the pump-handle at the Broad Street well prevented people from drinking the contaminated water and stopped the epidemic.

1855: Benjamin Silliman, of New Haven, Connecticut, obtains valuable products by distilling petroleum. They include; tar, naphthalene, gasoline, and various solvents.

1856: Bessemer devises a process to make cast steel on a large scale by blowing air through melted pig iron to burn the carbon and maintain the resulting steel melted.

1856: Seeking to make a substitute for quinine, the first artificial aniline coal tar dye is developed by William H. Perkin.

1858: Friederich August Kekulé von Stradonitz proposes that carbon atoms can form chains.

1859: The first commercially successful US oil well is drilled by E. L. Drake near Titusville, Pennsylvania. This 70 foot well launches the petroleum industry.

1860: During the First International Congress of Chemistry in Karlsruhe, Canizzaro presented new methods determine atomic weights; Oxygen weight of 16 was adopted as measuring basis of element weights, thus setting Hydrogen's weight, the lightest known element, to approximately 1. 

1860: Louis Pasteur germ theory of disease revolutionizes concepts of Medicine and public health.

1863: Ernest Solvay perfects his method for producing sodium bicarbonate.

1863: The British government passes the "Alkali Works Act" in an attempt to control environmental emissions.

1864: Ernst Haekel outlines the essential elements of modern zoological classification.

1864: Louis Pasteur's demolition of the doctrine of spontaneous generation.

1864: Ernst Seyler performed the first crystallization of a protein: hemoglobin.

1865: The Civil War (1861-65) ends.

1865: Friederich August Kekulé devices a ring model for the structural formula of benzene.

1865: The first US petroleum pipeline is built from an oil field near Titusville, Pennsylvania to a nearby railroad.

1866: Dynamite is developed by Alfred Nobel.

1866: Celluloid is invented by a British entrepreneur named Alexander Parkes ("The Father of Plastics").

1866: Gregor Mendel published his investigations on plant hybrids and the inheritance of "factors".

1866: Ernst Heinrich Haekel hypothesizes that the nuclei of a cell transmits its hereditary information. He was the first using the term "ecology" to describe the study of living organisms and their interactions with other organisms and with their environment.

1867: The Typewriter is invented.

1868: Charles Darwin elaborated the theory of pangenesis.

1868: Jean Baptiste Boussingnault pointed out that plants require oxygen for the photosynthesis.

1869: Dmitri Mendelejeff published a chemical elements arrangement table. This is the basis of the well known periodic table.

1869: The Transcontinental Railroad is completed as the Golden Spike is driven in at Promontory Point, Utah.

1869: Celluloid was produced by John Hyatt in Albany, New York. The breakthrough came about because of a search for an ivory substitute that could be used to make billiard balls. Celluloid was the first synthetic plastic to receive wide commercial use.

1870: Justus von Liebeg proposed that all ferments were chemical reactions rather than vital impulses.

1871: Johan Friederich Miescher isolated a substance which he called "nuclein" from the nuclei of white blood cells. This substance came to be known as nucleic acid.

1872: Carl Friederich Wilhem Ludwig and Eduard Pfünger studied the gas exchange process in the blood and showed that oxidation occurs in the tissues rather than in the blood.

1872: Lodygin, produced the first incandescent lamps in Russia.

1873: Barbed wire is introduced. Meat becomes plentiful as the cattle population doubles between 1875 and 1890.

1873: Anton Schneider observed and described the behavior of nuclear filaments (chromosomes) during cell division, providing the first accurate description of the process of mitosis in animal cells. 

1873: London fog kills 1,150 people; similar incidents repeated in the following 20 years.

1874: German graduate student Othmar Zeider discovers the chemical formula for DDT.

1875: Oscar Hertwig showed that the head of the spermatozoon becomes a pronucleus and combines with the female pronucleus as the zygote nucleus, thus establishing the concept that fertilization is the conjugation of two cells.

1876: The Telephone is patented by Alexander Graham Bell.

1876: Nikolaus August Otto designed the first four stroke piston engine. It is nicknamed the "Silent Otto".

1876: The American Chemical Society (ACS) is formed.

1877: Wilhelm Friederich Kühne proposed the term enzyme (meaning "in yeast") and distinguished enzymes from the microorganisms that produce them.

1877: Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.

1878: Josiah Willard Gibbs developed the theory of Chemical Thermodynamics introducing fundamental equations and relations to calculate multiphase equilibrium, the phase rule, and the free energy concept. His work remained unknown until 1883, when Wilhelm Ostwald discovered his work and translated it to German.

1879: First electric train is presented at the international exposition in Berlin.

1879: Thomas Edison and Sir Joseph Swan independently devise the first practical electric lights.

1879: Saccharin is discovered by Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist at Johns Hopkins University. The calorie free sweetener is 300 times stronger than sucrose and has been sold commercially since about 1900.

1880: Andrew Carnegie develops his first, large, steel furnace.

1880: George Davis proposes a "Society of Chemical Engineers" in England.

1881: Billy "the Kid" is shot by Pat Garrett.

1881: Louis Pasteur gave a public demonstration of the effectiveness of his anthrax vaccine.

1882: Thomas Edison builds the first hydroelectric power plant in Appleton, Wisconsin.

1882: Robert Koch discovers the rod-like tubercle bacillus responsible for tuberculosis (TB).

1883: Osborne Reynolds published his paper on the Reynolds' Number, a dimensionless quantity which characterizes laminar and turbulent flow by relating kinetic (or inertial) forces to viscous forces within a fluid.

1884: The World's first Skyscraper begins to be erected in Chicago.

1884: Patent granted for chemical-coagulation filtration process.

1884: The Solvay process is transferred to the United States and the Solvay Process Co. begins making soda ash in Syracuse.

1884: Svante Arrhenius and Friederich Ostwald independently defined acids as substances which release hydrogen ions when dissolved in water.

1884: Christian Joachim Gram  invented his staining method for classification of bacteria.

1884: Viscose Rayon is invented by the French chemist Hilaire Chardonnet.

1885: The gasoline automobile is developed by Karl Benz. Before this, gasoline was an unwanted fraction of petroleum which caused many house fires because of its tendency to explode when placed in Kerosene lamps.

1886: The first modern Oil Tanker, the Gluckauf, was built for Germany by England.

1887: August Weismann elaborated a theory of chromosome behavior during cell division and fertilization predicting the occurrence of meiosis.

1887: Emil Fischer elaborated the structural patterns of proteins.

1888: George Davis provides the blueprint for a new profession as he presents a series of 12 lectures on Chemical Engineering at the Manchester, England.

1888: Jack "the Ripper" kills six women in London.

1888: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology begins "Course X" (ten), the first four year Chemical Engineering program in the United States.

1888: Heinrich Hertz performed the first experiments with a receptor to "hear" herzian radio waves.

1889: Francis Galton formulated the law of ancestral inheritance, a statistical description of the relative contribution to heredity made by ancestors.

1890: Theodor Boveri and Jean Louis Guignard established the numerical equality of paternal and maternal chromosomes at fertilization.

1890: Emil Adolf von Behring discovered antibodies.

1891: Heinrich Wilhelm Weldiger proposed the neuron theory of the nervous system.

1891: Marie Eugene Dubois discovered Java man and named it Pithecanthropus Erectus, now known as Homo erectus.

1892: Diesel develops his internal combustion engine.

1892: Pennsylvania begins its Chemical Engineering curriculum.

1893: Sorel published "La rectification de l'alcool" were he developed and applied the mathematical theory of the rectifying column for binary mixtures. William Ostwald proved that enzymes are catalysts.

1894: Karl Pearson published the first of a series of contributions to the mathematical theory of evolution and methods for analyzing statistical frequency distribution.

1894: Emil Fischer conducted investigations which form the basis of the notion of enzyme specificity.

1894: William Maddock Bayliss and Henry Sterling studied the electric currents in mammalian heart.

1894: George Oliver and Eduard Albert Sharpey-Schaeffer first demonstrated the action of a specific hormone; the effect of an extract of adrenal gland on blood vessels and muscle contraction, upon injection in normal animals it produced a striking elevation of blood pressure.

1894: Tulane begins its Chemical Engineering curriculum.

1895: The German physicist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen discovered a new kind of radiation working with the vacuum tube discharge. This radiation was called X-rays.

1895: Linde develops his process for liquefying air.

1895: The first professional US football game is played in Pennsylvania.

1897: Badishe produces synthetic Indigo on a commercial scale in Germany.

1898: The US defeats Spain in the Spanish-American War.

1899: The first bottle of Aspirin goes on sale to the public.

1899: Max Plank introduced the concept that light and all other kinds of electromagnetic radiation, which were considered as continuous trains of waves, actually consist of individual energy packages with well defined amounts of energy quanta, proportional to its vibration frequency.

1900: John Herreshoff, of the Nichols Chemical Co., develops the first contact method for sulfuric acid production in the United States.

1900: Automobile is welcomed as bringing relief from pollution. New York City, with 120,000 horses, scrapes up 2.4 million pounds of manure every day.

1901: J.P. Morgan organizes the US Steel Corporation.

1901: George Davis publishes a "Handbook of Chemical Engineering."

1901: Oil Drilling begins in Persia.

1903: Orville & Wilbur Wright fly the first powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1903: The Ford Motor Company is founded.

1903: Arthur Noyes, a prominent MIT professor, established a Research Laboratory of Physical Chemistry.

1905: Einstein has his "miracle year" as he formulates the Special Theory of Relativity, establishes the Law of Mass-Energy Equivalence, creates the Brownian Theory of Motion, and formulates the Photon Theory of Light.

1906: The San Francisco Earthquake kills hundreds and destroys the city.

1906: Ludwig Boltzman dies. He has the equation: "S=k ln(W)" carved on his tombstone in Vienna. Today it is known as the Boltzman Principle, and provides a statistical relationship between entropy (S) and the number of ways a system can be configured (W).

1908: The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) is founded.

1908: Cellophane is discovered by a Swiss chemist named Jacques Brandenberger.

1908: New Jersey starts chlorinating water supply.

1908: Svante Arrhenius argues that the greenhouse effect from coal and petroleum use is warming the globe.

1908: The General Motors Company is founded.

1908: The first "Model T" rolls of the Ford assembly line.

1908: Dr. Leo Baekeland ("The Father of the Plastics Industry") discovers Bakelite in his laboratory in Yonkers, N.Y.

1910: Bakelite production begins at the General Bakelite Company. The plastic finds widespread use in; electric insulation, electric plugs and sockets, clock bases, iron handles, and jewelry.

1910: Synthetic Ammonia is first produced by the Haber Process in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

1910: A US Rayon plant is constructed by the American Viscose Co.

1911: Sir Ernest Rutherford proposes his theory concerning the atomic nucleus.

1912: The Titanic sinks, killing 1513 people, after striking an iceberg.

1912: Piltdown Man is proven a hoax.

1912: Wilson's cloud chamber allows the detection of protons and electrons.

1913: The Standard Oil Co. (Indiana) begins the thermal cracking of petroleum in "Burton Stills".

1913: Niels Bohr proposes his "solar system" model of the atom.

1914: Robert Goddard begins his rocketry experiments.

1914: World War I begins in Europe.

1915: The unit operations concept is articulated by Arthur Little.

1915: Ford Motor Co. develops a farm tractor.

1915: Toxic gas (Chlorine Gas) is used in World War I at the battle of Ypres. Fritz Haber, primarily known for his ammonia production process, supervises these deadly "experiments". Later, his wife pleads with him to stop his work concerning poison gases. After he refuses she commits suicide.

1915: The Corning Glass Works begins marketing Pyrex glass.

1916: William H. Walker and Warren K. Lewis, two prominent MIT professors, established a School of Chemical Engineering Practice.

1916: German saboteurs blow up the US munitions arsenal at Black Tom Island, New Jersey.

1917: The US enters World War I.

1917: A full-sized plant, producing nitric acid from ammonia, is built by the Chemical Construction Co.

1918: Fritz Haber receives the Nobel Prize for his work on Ammonia synthesis. However, the award is highly protested because of his prominent role in developing and delivering poison gas in WWI. Ironically, Haber is forced to leave his beloved Germany in 1933 because he is part Jewish

1918: Acetone is produced for the British in Terre Haute, Indiana.

1920's: Cellulose acetate, acrylics (Lucite & Plexiglas), and polystyrene can finally be produced in large quantities.

1920: The 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, goes into effect. Many cases of blindness and death result as people mistake wood alcohol (methanol) for ethanol.

1920: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology starts an independent Department of Chemical Engineering.

1920: Ponchon and Savarit developed and presented the famous Enthalpy-Concentration diagram useful to solve distillations calculations.

1920: The Standard Oil Co. (New Jersey) produces Isopropyl Alcohol, the first commercial petrochemical.

1921: A 4,500 metric ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfated exploded at a chemical plant in Oppau, Germany. The blast and subsequent fire killed 600, injured 1500, and left 7000 people homeless.

1922: Thomas Midgley uses Tetraethyl lead as an antiknock additive in gasoline.

1922: Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin develop a tuberculosis vaccine, BCG.

1922: The first human diabetes patient is injected with insulin. Mass production of this “wonder drug” soon follows.

1923: Louis de Broglie demonstrated that radiation has corpuscular properties, and that matter particles such as electrons present ondulatory wave characteristics.

1925: The AIChE begins accreditation of chemical engineering programs.

1925: Rubber antioxidants begin to be used.

1925: McCabe and Thiele present a graphical method for computing the number of equilibrium plates required in a fractionating column for binary mixtures.

1926: Du Pont and Commercial Solvents begin synthetic methanol production in the US

1927: Hermann Miller used X-rays to cause artificial gene mutations in Drosophila.

1929: The stock-market crash on "Black Thursday" brings ruin to thousands of investors.

1929: Alexander Fleming observes the effect Penicillin has on bacteria. The breakthrough occurred when he returned to his laboratory after a four week vacation. An improperly sealed bacteria culture had been accidentally contaminated by a number of molds and yeast. One of the molds had killed the bacteria in the culture.

1930's: The Wisconsin duo of Hougen & Watson stress the importance of thermodynamics in Chemical Engineering Education.

1930's & 40's: Michigan's Katz, Brown, White, Kurata, Standing, & Sliepcevich help lay down some foundations in phase equilibria, heat transfer, momentum transfer, and mass transfer.

1930's: The US suffers through the Great Depression.

1930's & 1940's: Systematic analysis of chemical reactors begun by; Damkohler in Germany, Van Heerden in Holland, and Danckwerts and Denbigh in England. They explore mass transfer, temperature variations, flow patterns, and multiple steady states.

1931: Neoprene synthetic rubber is produced by Du Pont.

1933: The Imperial Chemical Industries in England discover Polyethylene.

1933: Du Pont begins production of Rayon tire cord fabrics.

1934 Perry's first edition of the Chemical Engineers Handbook is published.

1935: Wallace H. Carothers, of Du Pont, discovers Nylon.

1936: Rohm & Haas begins marketing Methyl Methacrylate plastics (PMMA).

1936: The Houdry Process is used in the Catalytic Cracking of Petroleum.

1937: Polystyrene is offered to consumers in the US by Dow Chemical. It finds uses in radios, clock cases, electrical equipment, and wall tiles.

1938: World War II begins in Europe.

1939: Enrico Fermi, Otto Hahn, F. Strassman, Lisa Meitner, and Otto Frish discover Nuclear Fission.

1939: Nylon used for women's stockings.

1940's: Polyethylene (electrical insulation and food packaging), silicones (lubricants, protective coatings, and high-temperature electronic insulation), and epoxy (a very strong adhesive) are developed.

1940: Standard Oil Co. (Indiana) develops Catalytic Reforming to produce higher octane gasoline and create toluene for TNT. Higher octane gasoline helped the American and British fighters outperform their German counterparts.

1940: First tire from synthetic rubber produced in US

1941: The United States enters World War II.

1941: Styrene-Butadiene Rubber first produced in the US

1942: Polyester resins introduced.

1942: Enrico Fermi, and a team of scientists, operated the first man-made nuclear reactor under a football field at the University of Chicago. A cadmium control rod was suspended over the pile with a rope. Should something have gone wrong, a scientist was to cut the rope with an ax, thereby dropping the rod into the reactor, hopefully solving the problem. Ever since then an emergency shutdown has been called a SCRAM, which stands for "safety control rod ax man".

1942: New York State grants Hooker Chemical Company permission to dispose of waste in clay-lined abandoned Love Canal.

1943: Government owned synthetic rubber plants help boost war time production.

1943: DDT, a powerful pesticide, first produced in the US

1944: Teflon, Tetrafluoroethelene resins, marketed by Du Pont.

1944: Selman Waksman discovers streptomycin, the first effective anti-tuberculous drug.

1945: The US ends World War II by detonating the Atomic Bomb over Hiroshima, Japan.

1945: After World War II, the US broke Germany's enormous I.G. Farben into; BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst.

1947: A barge, the Grandcamp, loaded with fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate catches fire and explodes destroying a nearby city and killing 576 in what would later be known as the "Texas City Disaster".

1947: The formation of hydrocarbons from synthetic gas by the Fischer-Tropish Process.

1947: ENIAC computer uses Monte Carlo methods to solve neutron diffusion problem in atomic bombs.

1947: The first off shore oil is drilled.

1948: A deadly smog settled over the small steel mill town of Donora, PA. The noxious air killed 19 and caused thousands to become ill.

1948: Müller awarded Nobel Prize for inventing DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).

1950's: Television enters American homes.

1950: The Korean War begins.

1950's & 1960's: Minnesota's mathematical marvel of Amundson & Aris stress the importance of mathematical modeling in Chemical Reactor Engineering. Their work helps encourage greater mathematical competence in Chemical Engineering Education.

1950's & 1960's: Wisconsin's triumvirate of Bird, Stewart, & Lightfoot reveal the unifying concepts of mass, momentum, and energy transport. Their textbook, "Transport Phenomenon" continues to be a phenomenon in Chemical Engineering Education.

1950: Benzene produced from petroleum.

1951: The first Fusion Bomb is tested.

1952: Du Pont introduces Mylar polyester film.

1952: 4,000 die in a London smog.

1953: Production of soap exceeded by synthetic detergents.

1953: Francis Crick solved the three-dimensional structure of DNA molecule disclosed by James Watson and discovered in 1950 by Erwin Chargaff.

1953: After an extremely strong storm the North Sea floods southern Holland. More than 1800 people die.

1954: Polyisoprene rubber developed.

1955: General Electric produces synthetic diamond.

1955: Government sells synthetic rubber plants to private industry.

1957: The Russians launch Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite.

1957: Windscale graphite nuclear reactor burns for 42 hours in England. Releases I-131. Residents curtail milk consumption for safety reasons.

1957: General Electric develops polycarbonate plastics.

1959: The computer control of chemical processes gains credibility.

1959: A large scale hydrogen plant, to produce rocket fuel, is completed by Air Products.

1960: Theodore Maiman builds the first LASER based upon the proposal of Arthur Schawlow.

1961: Alan Shepard becomes the first American into space.

1961: William McBride, an Australian obstetrician, discovers that thalidomide, a mourning sickness drug, causes birth defects. Twenty years later he similarly "discovers" that debendox, another mourning sickness drug, also causes birth defects. However, this time his McBride had altered his data. Debendox produces no ill effects. In 1993, he was found guilty of scientific fraud by a medical tribunal.

1962: The Russians remove their missiles from Cuba.

1962: The smog in London kills 1,000.

1962: Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring", presents an emotional plea for protecting human health and the environment from chemical pesticides.

1965: American Troops enter the Vietnam War.

1965: Bottles made from polyvinyl chloride gain market share.

1965: NutraSweet is discovered by a researcher, Mr. James Schlatter, at the G.D. Searle & Co. The calorie free sugar replacer is 200 times sweeter than common sucrose.

1966: Fist attempt to control organic solvent emissions made by Los Angeles' Rule 66.

1968: Consumption of man-made fibers tops natural fibers in US

1969: The Apollo 11 mission succeeds by landing Man on the Moon.

1969: The horribly polluted Cuyahoga River, running through Cleveland, actually caught on fire.

1970's: America's heavy dependence on foreign oil results in an Energy Crisis as the Arabs stop shipment to countries which supported Israel in the Arab-Israeli Wars.

1970: America holds its first "Earth Day" on April 22.

1970: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is formed. It consists of 6,000 employees and has an annual budget of $1.3 billion.

1970: Congress passes the "Clean Air Act" establishing national air quality standards.

1972: Congress passes the "Clean Water Act" to confront water pollution.

1973: The last American Troops leave Vietnam.

1973: Stanley Cohen & Herbert Boyer perform the first experiment in Genetic Engineering.

1973: Construction on New York's "World Trade Center" and Chicago's "Sears Tower" are completed.

1974: Richard Nixon resigns from office.

1974: Cyclohexan vapor from ruptured makeshift bypass pipe explodes killing 28 workers in Flixborough, England, prompting legislation for risk studies in British chemical plants.

Mid 1970's: Toxic releases including: the Kepone tragedy at Hopewell, VA; the PCB contamination of the Hudson River; and the PBB poisoning of cows in Michigan keep environment issues in the headlines.

1975: Catalytic converters are introduced in many automobiles to meet emissions standards established by the US government.

1975: Cable fire at Browns Ferry nuclear reactor in Alabama almost leads to disaster. It was caused by an electrician who used a candle to check for air leaks below the nuclear plant's control room.

1975: Du Pont recognizes the contributions of Nathaniel C. Wyeth. He was responsible for introducing the plastic soda bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which quickly replaced their glass predecessors.

1975: McDonald's fast food chain starts using Polystyrene to package its hamburgers.

1976: Congress passes the "Toxic Substances Control Act" regulating toxic chemicals.

1976: Seymour Cray, of Cray Research, makes the Cray-1 super-computer

1976: The US National Academy of Sciences reports that chlorofluorocarbons (Freons) can deplete the Ozone Layer.

1976: The US bans the use of chloroform in drugs and cosmetics.

1976: Viking 1 lands on Mars, becoming the first man-made object to ever soft-land on another planet.

1977:The FDA moves to ban Saccharin, a calorie free sweetener, because it has been found to cause cancer in rats.

1977: Raymond Damadian builds his first Magnetic Resonance Imager (MRI) used to generate 3-D images of the human body using the principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (NMR).

1978: Due to considerable grass roots pressure, the FDA decides to merely require an information label on Saccharin, despite being shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

1978: Chlorofluorcarbons (Freons) are banned as spray propellants in the US because of fears over the Ozone Layer.

1978: The US Government begins limiting the amount of lead permitted in gasoline. The action is taken to prevent deterioration of the platinum catalysts in catalytic converters, not to protect the public's safety.

1979: No one is injured, but many are terrified, by an nuclear reactor incident at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania.

1979: Soviet troops retreat from Afghanistan.

1979: Genetic Engineering succeeds in synthesizing human insulin.

Late 1970's: Love Canal (in New York) and the Valley of Drums (10,000 leaking hazardous waste drums near West Point, KY) keep environmental issues in the news and are described as "ticking time bombs."

1980: The US Supreme Court rules that General Electric can Patent a microbe used for oil cleanup.

1980: The "push through tabs" used on today's pop and beer cans are first introduced.

1980: The US Government bans the sale of lead based paints.

1980: The Superfund, containing $1.6 billion, is formed to be used by the EPA in cleaning up pollution sites.

1981: Microsoft develops MS-DOS for the IBM PC.

1981: Chemical Process Simulation software is released for the PC. Soon packages like DESIGN II, ASPEN, SIMSCI (PROII), HYSIM, & CHEMCAD start appearing on engineering desktops.

1981: John Darsee, a former Harvard researcher, was found to be faking heart study data. His fraud had been propagated in almost 100 published research studies.

1981: Gerd Binnig & Heinrich Rohrer develop the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) which is capable of resolving individual atoms on a surface.

1981: NASA's "Columbia" Space Shuttle becomes the world's first reusable space craft.

1983: Carl Sagan, and a group of scientists, publishes an alarming report concerning the long term climatic impacts of nuclear war.

1984: AT&T is broken into "Baby Bells" by the US government.

1984: Apple introduces the Macintosh personal computer.

1984: An accidental toxic gas release by Union Carbide kills over 2000 and disables 10000 in Bhopal, India.

1985: Richard E. Smalley and Harold W. Kroto discover "Buckyballs", a soccer ball like molecule made of 60 carbon atoms.

1985: Low petroleum prices lead to the cancellation of the US Government sponsored "Synfuels" project, designed to develop alternative energy sources based on coal or oil shales.

1986: Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor #4 explodes, releasing large amounts of radiation near Kiev, USSR.

1986: NASA's Space Shuttle, Challenger, explodes shortly after take off.

1986: K. Alex Muller and George J. Bednorz discover a superconductor that operates at 30 degrees Kelvin. This sets off an explosion in "high" temperature superconductors.

1987: Japan's "Nipon Zeon" company develops a plastic with "memory". At low temperatures it can be bent and twisted, however when heated above 37 degrees Celsius it returns to its initial shape.

1988: A Scanning Tunneling Microscope produces the first picture of a Benzene Ring.

1988: North Sea oil platform explodes prompting England to require risk assessments in oil industry.

1988: McDonald's fast food chain stops using the "clamshell" to package its hamburgers because of fears over the CFC's used in manufacturing Polystyrene.

1989: An Exxon Oil Tanker, the Valdez, runs aground in of the coast of Alaska.

1989: The fall of Berlin Wall.

1989: "The New Yorker" magazine raises the possibility that electromagnetic fields might cause cancer. Over the next decade, US taxpayers spend $25 billion funding studies which find no link between power lines and cancer. Similar epidemiological studies in Canada and Britain also find no link.

1989: The Human Geonome Project, designed to map all the genes in a human being, is launched.

1989: Stanley Pons & Martin Fleischmann boldly announce the "invention" of cold fusion. Results have never been duplicated and are agreed to have been faulty.

1990: Lithuania declares independence from Soviet Union in March 11. As response USSR sends troops and blocks gas and oil supplies.

1990: Federal Trade Commission opens antitrust probe of Microsoft.

1991: The Soviet Union formally dissolves.

1991: Washington D.C. has a victory parade, celebrating the decisive US success against Iraq in the Gulf War.

1992: The Australian Government begins a three year plan to introduce plastic $5, $10, $20, $50, & $100 bills.

1993: New York's "World Trade Center" is bombed by terrorists. The explosive was created by a 26-year-old chemical engineer educated at Rutgers University.

1993: The high price of replacing a corroding heat exchanger causes the Portland General Electric Company to retire, rather than repair, its Nuclear Power Plant in Rainier Oregon.

1994: More computers than television sets are sold.

1994: Eurotunnel opens. The 50 kilometer long tunnel connects England with France.

1995: The Shinri Kyo cult uses Sarin nerve gas in the deadly Tokyo subway attack.

1995: A bomb made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil destroys the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK.

1995: Dow-Corning files bankruptcy after being sued by 19000 women over "faulty" breast implants.

1996: Dolly, a female sheep, becomes the first mammal to be cloned from an adult mammal's cells. This incredible work was carried out at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, and its announcement sparked a rash of discussion and legislation concerning the morality of cloning human beings.

1996: Olestra, a fat-free fat replacer, is approved for use in salted snacks by the FDA after 10 years of deliberation. Olestra is a novel lipid made from sucrose and soybean oil. With up to 8 fatty acids attached to the sucrose molecule, instead of the 3 fatty acids typically found in fat, enzymes are unable to break down Olestra. The Procter & Gamble company has been studying the safety of Olestra for nearly 30 years.

1996: Britain announces that 10 people have contracted mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), from contaminated beef. In response, 3.7 million cattle are slaughtered.

1996: A NASA funded team finds evidence that suggests microbial life may have existed on Mars more than 3.6 billion years ago. The evidence consists of traces of organic compounds and mineral features characteristic of biological activity.

1996: Troll offshore platform begins collecting natural gas off the Norwegian coast. At 369 meters tall (most submerged) and 656,000 tons it is one of the worlds largest structures.

1997: Mar's Pathfinder becomes the first spacecraft to land on Mars in more than two decades. Its automated rover provides close-up views of "Barnacle Bill" and other Martian rocks while its novel airbag landing demonstrates NASA's commitment to more numerous, less expensive missions.

1998: Government begins antitrust trial of Microsoft.

2000: Y2K bug costs $100 billion to fix. Doomsday scenarios averted.

Table of Contents

A Century of Contributions

Engineering & Scientific Wages

Petroleum: Distillation


"The end already... go back to the top."


Special thanks to Luis Klemas & Murugan Selvan for their contributions...

Last updated on September 18, 2000 by Wayne Pafko...

Copyright 2000, Wayne Pafko