William Albert Noyes: The Department Comes of Age

C  O  N  T  E  N  T  S

Noyes Laboratory:
One Hundred Years of Chemistry

A Century of Accomplishment
The Bare Facts
Nobel Prize Winners
ACS Presidents
Priestley Medal Winner

Fine Chemicals

The Illinois State Water Survey

Chemists and Chemistry at Noyes:
Roger Adams:
"The Chief"
Ludwig F. Audrieth and Synthetic Sweeteners
John C. Bailar Jr. and Coordination Chemistry
St. Elmo Brady: Pioneer
George L. Clark and High-Intensity X-Ray Tubes
Willis H. Flygare and Microwave Spectrometry
Reynold C. Fuson: Teaching Chemistry
Herbert S. Gutowsky and NMR Spectroscopy
B. Smith Hopkins and the Chemistry of Rare Earths
Henry Fraser Johnstone and the Study of Air Pollution
Herbert A. Laitinen and Analytical Chemistry
Carl "Speed" Marvel: Advances in Polymer Chemistry
William A. Noyes: The Department Comes of Age
Arthur W. Palmer: The Early Years
Samuel W. Parr and Applied Chemistry
Charles C. Price III and Antimalarials
Worth H. Rodebush and Physical Chemistry
William C. Rose and Amino Acids
George F. Smith and the Aerosol Can
Harold R. Snyder and Antimalarials
Marion Sparks and Chemical Information

Landmark Designation

William Albert Noyes grew up on a farm near Independence, Iowa. In 1875 he enrolled at Grinnell College in classical studies, reading chemistry on his own and teaching full-time in country schools. He graduated in 1879 with A.B. and B.S. degrees, but stayed on at Grinnell to teach and study analytical chemistry. In January 1881 he entered Johns Hopkins University to study with Ira Remsen. A year and a half later he received a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins for work on benzene oxidation with chromic acid.

Noyes spent a year at the University of Minnesota as an instructor and then went to the University of Tennessee as professor of chemistry. In 1886 he began a seventeen-year tenure at the Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he worked on camphor derivatives, especially camphoric acid. In 1903, Noyes became the first Chief Chemist at the National Bureau of Standards in Baltimore, where he determined atomic weights. Burning hydrogen over palladium in pure oxygen and weighing the resulting water gave a value of 1.00787:16 for the critical hydrogen:oxygen weight ratio, still one of the most precise chemical determinations ever made.

In 1907, Noyes became head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Illinois, and in his nineteen-year tenure he helped make it one of the most prestigious in the United States. In 1939, to honor his work, the chemistry building at Illinois was renamed Noyes Laboratory.

Primarily an organic chemist, Noyes is remembered for his work on the structure of camphor, the electronic theories of valence, and the valence and nature of nitrogen in nitrogen trichloride. He served many years as editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (1902-1917). He was also the founding editor of the following: Chemical Abstracts (1907-1910), Chemical Reviews (1924-1926), and the American Chemical Society Scientific Monographs (1919-1941). In 1935 he received the Priestley Medal.


Copyright ©2006 American Chemical Society. All Rights Reserved. 1155 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20036
202-872-4600, 800-227-5558