International Year of
Chemistry in 2011
BRYAN HENRY AND JOHN MALIN
The year 2011 will be a very exciting one for science in general and chemistry in partic
ular. Chemists everywhere will encourage the world to celebrate the International
Year of Chemistry (IYC).
W hy should we celebrate chemistry? With their
typical humility, chemists will tell you that
there is nothing in the world that does not involve
the idea at its April 2006 meeting and the Union o -
cially endorsed IYC in August 2007. UNESCO
designation followed in April 2008 and UNESCO
chemistry. All known matter – gas, liquid and solid – went on to play a critical facilitating role in obtaining
is composed of the chemical elements or of the United Nations declaration in December 2008.
compounds made from those elements. Humankind’s Ethiopian representatives, who placed the motion to
understanding of the material nature of our world is celebrate the IYC on the oor of the UN, have been
grounded in our knowledge of chemistry. Indeed, all key contributors.
living processes are controlled by chemical reactions. The objectives of the International Year of Chem-
The International Union of Pure and Applied istry are to:
Chemistry (IUPAC), the oldest of the global scien- • increase the public appreciation and under-
ti c unions, strongly believes that it is time to cele- standing of chemistry in meeting world needs
brate the achievements of chemistry and its • encourage interest of young people in chemistry
contributions to the wellbeing of humankind. • generate enthusiasm for the creative future of
IUPAC was formed in 1919 in response to a need to chemistry
achieve international uniformity on chemical nomen- • celebrate the role of women in chemistry.
clature. Since becoming the recognised world With regard to the last objective, 2011 is the 100th
authority in the language of chemistry (that is, anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize in Chem-
nomenclature, symbols and terminology), IUPAC istry to Marie Curie. Historically, 2011 is also signi -
has evolved into a truly worldwide organisation asso- cant because it marks the 100th anniversary of the
ciated with many of the aspects of chemical science. founding of the International Association of Chem-
Only the United Nations General Assembly can ical Societies. This organisation evolved eight years
declare an International Year. However, the concept later to become IUPAC.
of IYC 2011 really began when IUPAC recognised The UN declaration emphasised the role of chem-
the number of scienti c disciplines that have achieved istry in helping to achieve environmental sustain-
recognition and public appreciation from securing ability. In fact, during 2011 we hope to show that
United Nations designation of an international year chemistry is vital if we are to meet the UN Millen-
pertaining to their eld. nium Development goals:
IUPAC’s Executive Committee began to develop 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
16 JULY 2010
2 Achieve universal primary education. December 2011 in Brussels, Belgium, under the
3 Promote gender equality and empower women. patronage of the chemical and pharmaceutical
4 Reduce child mortality. industry.
5 Improve maternal health. At this stage, there are preliminary plans for a
6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. variety of other activities including an African confer-
7 Ensure environmental sustainability. ence on science, education and capacity-building chal-
8 Develop a global partnership for development. lenges related to the UN’s Strategic Approach to
IUPAC has developed a website International Chemicals Management; a project on
(<http://www.chemistry 2011.org>) to inform indi- the science of climate change led by the Royal Society
viduals and organisations about events and activities for Chemistry and the American Chemical Society;
associated with IYC. The site encourages both inter- numerous national proposals for commemorative
action and participation. In particular, it urges partici- postage stamps; and speci c celebrations, for example,
pants to post information about what various the Sorbonne/ L’Oreal award for women in science
countries, groups, chemical societies etc. are doing to will celebrate the work of Marie Curie.
celebrate IYC. We will face a number of challenges in getting the
As mentioned, IUPAC and UNESCO are the message across. We must re-energise existing
principal international organising partners for IYC. national/regional outreach activities and employ non-
The UN will play an important role, as will federa- traditional communication tools such as Facebook
tions of chemical societies in Africa, Asia, Europe and and YouTube to address chemistry-related questions,
Latin America. Industry, NGOs and educational and for example, by employing existing video clips and
research institutions will also make important contri- creating new ones to promote the contributions of
butions. However, the key organisations carrying out chemistry. We are working to mount a global experi-
IYC activities will be the national chemical societies. ment related to chemistry and sustainability, most
These societies will produce most of the IYC activi- likely focusing on water supplies. In this case, students
ties, reaching out especially to audiences that are around the world (primary, secondary and/or
absolutely critical to the success of IYC, namely tertiary) could collect water samples and make simple
young people and the general public. measurements. The samples could even undergo
During 2011, all these partners will highlight the
further analysis for more sophisticated properties
nature, beauty and relevance – both economic and
such as isotopic composition. The resultant data
environmental – of chemistry to the modern world.
could be compared in a collective global database.
We intend to use the media effectively to enhance the
Our understanding of the fundamental nature of
pro le of chemistry, as viewed by pupils, the general
our world is grounded in chemistry. Molecular trans-
population and decision-makers. All will work coop-
formations are basic to the production of foodstuffs,
eratively to achieve these goals. IYC 2011 is an oppor-
medicines, fuels and materials – essentially all manu-
tunity that we must exploit to the fullest extent. It
factured and extracted products. We will rely on this
will not come again within most of our lifetimes.
science to maintain a sustainable, wholesome environ-
Three primary international cornerstone events are
ment for all the Earth. IYC 2011 is a unique opportu-
being planned. The opening ceremony will take place
nity for everyone to celebrate the central
in Paris, France, under the aegis of the UN,
contributions of chemistry.
UNESCO and IUPAC on 27–28 January 2011. Its
Bryan Henry is currently Professor Emeritus at University of Guelph, On
theme will be focused on how chemistry can help to tario, Canada. In 2003, he was elected to terms as IUPAC Vice President
meet the UN Millennium Goals. There will be an (2004, 2005), President (2006, 2007) and past President (2008, 2009).
IUPAC World Chemistry Congress from 30 July to 7
John Michael Malin has served as a member of the US National Commit
August 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, entitled tee for IUPAC, Chair of IUPAC’s committee on Chemical Research Ap
‘Chemistry Bridging Innovation among the Americas plied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN) and is currently Chair of the
IUPAC’s Management Committee for the International Year of Chem
and the World’. The closing event will take place on 1 istry – 2011.
JULY 2010 17