Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Note on "Pure" Chemistry

Over at the Curious Wavefunction, a recent post touched upon the idea of "pure" chemistry not being well-recognized as of late by the Nobel Committee. I of course find the entire notion to be rather silly - if one can't see the chemistry in those Prizes, then you have my condolences - but I thought it would be interesting to do the following exercise.

The American Chemical Society has a yearly "Award in Pure Chemistry" that is intended to recognize fundamental research in chemistry by a young researcher. Just to see what the ACS has considered "pure chemistry" since the 1990s, shall we?

Hmmm. This is a bit unusual. It seems that amongst the fairly obvious "traditional" chemistry researchers that are being recognized, there are a bunch of interdisciplinary scientists who are undermining the sanctity of chemistry! And some of them - dear Odin! - even have biological interests. Even if you go further back, I recognize a number of names who have become rather renowned for their interdisciplinary research.

Clearly, there is a mismatch between what the chemical community officially considers "pure" chemistry versus what the unofficial position tends to be, if one considers the chemical blogosphere to be representative. Hmmmm.

1 comment:

Wavefunction said...

Good point. It increasingly seems to me that the Nobel Prize elicits these kinds of reactions mainly because of its high prestige. As you point out, nobody seems to complain much about the blurring of traditional chemical boundaries in the context of "lesser" awards and recognitions. The subtext is clear; we need to lighten up.

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