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Celebrating the Life

Chemical Biography

Guide to Reference Sources



General Science Biographical Sources

American men and women of science. (formerly: American men of science.)
Q 141 A47; check catalog for various editions
This is the primary "Who's Who" of U.S. academic science, but is limited to persons who were alive and working at the time of each edition's publication. Included: basic biographical background, degrees, positions, awards, research specialties, and addresses. Editions from the 3rd (1921) forward are shelved in the Chemistry Library book stacks.

Asimov's biographical encyclopedia of science and technology. 2nd ed.
Q 141 A74 1982 Chem Ref
1,510 biographies from ancient to modern times, arranged chronologically. List of persons covered is in front; subject index in back.

Biographical dictionary of American science: 17th through 19th centuries.
Q 141 E37 (1979): PMA, PCL Ref
Entries on 600 scientists born between 1606 and 1867.

Biographical dictionary of scientists. 3rd ed.
Q 141 B528 2000, 2 vols. Chem Ref
Hundreds of short biographies of important scientists living and dead, with bibliographies.

Biographical memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1932- (formerly: Obituary Notices)
JSTOR U.T. restricted
Chemistry Journal Stacks (1955-90); PCL Stacks: Q 41 R9
Biographical sketches and obituaries of prominent British scientists.

Biographical memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences.
Q 141 N2 PCL Stacks
This series began in 1877. The online site has hundreds of digitized memoirs listed by name.

Dictionary of scientific biography. U.T. restricted
Articles on scientists from all periods, from antiquity to modern.

International women in science : a biographical dictionary to 1950.
Q 141 H2167 2001 Chem Ref
Biographical sketches of important women scientists from 1600 to 1950.

Nobelprize.org
Official site of the Nobel Foundation, full of biographical information on prize winners and their Nobel lectures.

Who's who of Nobel Prize winners.
AS 911 N9 W53 2002 Chem Ref
Arranged by prize category, then chronologically. Indexes by name, institution, nationality, and religion.


Chemistry Biographical Sources

A to Z of chemists.
QD 21 O34 2002 Chem Ref
Illustrated articles on over 150 major chemists.

American chemists and chemical engineers.
QD 21 A43 Chem Ref, 2 vols.

Bulletin for the history of chemistry. 1988-
Journal Stacks
Semi-annual journal published by the History of Chemistry division of the ACS. It has a web index searchable by keyword and author, and online tables of contents. Full text is for HIST members only.

Chemical Genealogy Database.
This database provides academic genealogies for major chemists, along with brief biographical information and references, in PDF format.

Directory of graduate research. 1957-
DGRweb
QD 21 D573: latest ed. in Reference, earlier vols. in stacks
The American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training issues this directory every two years, profiling the faculties in U.S. and Canadian departments of chemistry, biochemistry, chemical engineering, polymer and materials science, etc. that offer advanced degrees. Entries include brief contact information for each faculty member, plus a select list of recent publications. The older volumes of this series provide a useful snapshot into past faculties. The web version contains several past editions as well. DGR is less useful for current directory information, compared to more up-to-date departmental web sites.

Great chemists.
QD 21 F35 Chem Ref
100 extended articles on the most important chemists in history.

Nobel laureates in chemistry 1901-1992.
QD 21 N63 1993 Chem Ref
Biographical sketches, with extensive bibliographies.

The Nobel Prize winners: chemistry.
QD 35 N64 1990, 3 vols. Chem Ref
Articles summarize each winner's achievements and Nobel lecture, and offer both a primary and secondary bibliography, pointing to other biographical material.

Torchbearers of chemistry.
QD 21 S55 Chem Ref
Portraits of 250 famous chemists of the past, with brief biographical captions.

Women in chemistry and physics : a biobibliographic sourcebook.
QD 21 W62 1993 Chem Ref
Chapters on 75 women, living and dead, who made important contributions to chemistry and physics. Cross-indexed by place of birth, place of work, and scientific field.


Other Resources

Biographies
Book-length biographies of chemists are rare and are usually limited to the most famous and influential historical figures. Search in the Library Catalog using the person's name as a subject or a keyword. Chemistry biographies are classified in the QD 21-22 area.

Collected Works
Occasionally the publications of an notable scientist will be collected and republished in book form. Search the library catalog under the person's name as an author.

Memoirs
Some chemists publish their own reminiscences and autobiographies in book form. Search the library catalog or WorldCat using their names as an author or subject, or browse in the QD 21-22 area. During the 1990s the American Chemical Society published a series of personal memoirs titled Profiles, Pathways, and Dreams.

Obituaries
  • Chemists sometimes receive an obituary tribute in a journal relevant to their area of research, which summarizes their career and achievements. These were usually indexed in Chemical Abstracts prior to 1972; look in CA's Subject Index under the person's name. General headings like "Obituaries" and "Biography" sometimes contain entries as well.
  • Members of the National Academy of Sciences and fellows of the Royal Society of London should have substantial obituaries published in those organizations' respective biographical memoirs (see above).
  • Wiley-VCH has compiled a List of Obituaries and Biographical Notes published in several major European journals over the years.
  • American chemists may receive a brief obituary notice in Chemical & Engineering News, which published annual subject indexes until 1997. Look in the indexes under the heading "Obituaries." To search the entire archive online by keyword, see the information under C&EN here.
  • The New York Times publishes obituaries of prominent scientists.

Festschrifts
Some scientists are honored with a collection of original papers, usually on the occasion of a birthday or retirement. These volumes invariably contain a laudatory biographical essay and bibliography of the subject's major publications. Search in the library catalog using the person's name as a subject or a title keyword. Book festschrifts are not as common as they used to be; it is now more typical for festschrifts to appear as a dedicated issue of a journal. There is unfortunately no reliable way to search for special "titled" journal issues, since this issue-level information is not indexed anywhere. It helps if you know the journal and year of publication, and you can do a name search on the journal's web site.

Histories
You can find biographical information in histories of science, chemistry, or specific subfields. Use the subheading --History with relevant subject headings, such as: Chemistry--History Chemistry, Analytic--History Also, browse the shelves in QD 20-30 for material on the history of chemistry in general.

Bibliographies
Historical listings of articles published after 1907 can be compiled searching Chemical Abstracts, but pre-20th-century papers can be harder to identify. Try these sources:

Biographisch-literarisches Handworterbuch der exakten Naturwissenschaften. (Poggendorff's)
Q 141 P635 PCL Ref
Classic German biobibliographic source, each part covering particular time periods and nationalities.

Catalogue of scientific papers. (1800-1900)
shelved next to Chemical Abstracts; 19 vols. plus 4-vol. subject index.
The best bibliographic source for locating scholarly papers from the 19th century, compiled by the Royal Society of London.

See the pathfinder on Historical Literature for more information on pre-1907 indexes and abstracts.

Archives
Most historical resources are not published, but may be preserved as archival collections. If you're doing serious research, you must determine if an institution keeps an archive for the person in question. The best way to start is to contact the library or the department of the university or institution where the subject did significant work, and inquire about their papers or other primary resources (such as photo or clipping files, local newsletters, memorials, etc.) that might exist there. Searching that library's online catalog for the person's name is a good idea too, in case any of this unpublished material has been cataloged. The Chemical Heritage Foundation's Othmer Library, located in Philadelphia, is one of the major repositories of archives on the history of chemistry. They may be able to advise on archival questions. The ArchiveGrid and Archive Finder databases can help locate specific archival collections in the U.S.


Other Databases

Biography Reference Bank U.T. restricted
Biographical index of periodicals and books (scientific publications are typically not included).

Dictionary of National Biography U.T. restricted
Over 50,000 biographies of persons of distinction in Britain deceased before 2000.

SciFinder (Chemical Abstracts) U.T. restricted
SciFinder provides online access to the Chemical Abstracts family of databases, including Chemical Abstracts back to 1907. CA has not indexed non-technical articles in recent decades. Nevertheless, doing a research topic (as opposed to author) search on a person's name might turn up some interesting things.

Dissertation Abstracts U.T. restricted
Covers PhD dissertations written at U.S. universities back to 1865. In the last few years the name of the author's faculty advisor has been included. This is a way to find out where a person (in any discipline) studied, and what their early research was about.

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine U.T. restricted
Indexes journal articles, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and dissertations in the history of science, technology, and medicine and allied historical fields. The database integrates four bibliographies: the Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science, the Current Bibliography in the History of Technology (Technology and Culture), the Bibliografia Italiana di Storia della Scienza and the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Updated quarterly, it covers 1975 to the present.

Web of Science U.T. restricted
This tool indexes articles and books from all time periods that have been cited by other authors. For instance, if a modern author cites a paper from the 19th century, that citation will be listed under the original author's name in the Citation Index part of SCI. This will refer you to the citing paper. This approach can tell you two things: who's currently involved in work related to the older work in question, and what older papers are considered most important today, i.e. those which are still being cited the most.

WorldCat.org
The WorldCat database catalogs the holdings of many thousands of libraries worldwide and is a good source for discovering obscure books, ephemera and some manuscript collections.