Arnold Thackray

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Arnold Wilfrid Thackray
Arnold Thackray 2003.jpg
Arnold Thackray 2003
Born (1939-07-30) July 30, 1939 (age 79)
northwest England
NationalityUnited Kingdom
OccupationScience historian
Known forFounding President of the Chemical Heritage Foundation
TitleJoseph Priestley Professor Emeritus
AwardsDexter Award
Academic background
Alma materCambridge University
Thesis (1966)
Doctoral advisorMary Hesse
Academic work
DisciplineHistory of Science

Arnold Thackray (born 30 July 1939) is a science historian who is the founding president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (now the Science History Institute). He is an emeritus professor at the University of Pennsylvania.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Thackray was born in northwest England on July 30, 1939. In 1960, he completed an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Bristol University. He worked as a chemical engineer before enrolling in graduate school to pursue his interest in the history of science.[1] Thackray entered the doctoral program at Cambridge University in 1963 where he studied under Mary Hesse who was well-known at the time in the field of Philosophy of Science.[1] After completing his degree in 1966, Thackray began his academic career.[2]

Academic and professional career[edit]

Following completion of his PhD, Thackray served on faculties at universities in the field of science history. Initially he was a research fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge University, until 1968. At that time, Thackray joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania as a professor of history.[3] He has additionally held visiting professorships at the London School of Economics (1971-1972), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1978), Harvard University (1980), and Stanford University (1983),[1] in addition to Bryn Mawr College and the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University.[3]

The focus of Thackray's research has been on the historical aspects of the rise of modern science, especially chemistry, and the interactions between the scientific community and society as a whole. He has authored books and a significant number publications in the scholarly literature.[3] As of May 2017, Thackray authored eleven books and 45 articles in the scholarly literature. Additionally, he served as editor of the academic journals Isis (1978-1985) and Osiris (1984-1994), which cover the history of science. Thackray was president of the Society for Social Studies of Science from 1982 to 1983 and a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.[1]

The Department of History and Sociology of Science of the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1970,[4] and Thackray was the first chairman of the department. It combined faculty from other academic departments at the university, including the disciplines of history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, English, and American civilization.[4] During this time, Thackray additionally served as curator of The Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection on the history of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.[5]

Chemical Heritage Foundation[edit]

A 1979-1980 task force led by historian John H. Wotiz[6] resulted in a recommendation to the American Chemical Society that it create a center for the history of chemistry.[7] In 1981, the American Chemical Society solicited proposals to develop such a center.[7] Thackray was already established in Philadelphia, which was a center for the chemical industry and where Thackray was leading efforts on documenting the history of chemistry. Thackray enlisted the help of chemist Charles C. Price, who introduced Thackray to chemical industry executive and philanthropist John C. Haas. Haas pledged financial support for Thackray's proposal and introduced Thackray to other influential people in the chemical industry, especially DuPont Co. CEO Edward Jefferson. The fundraising netted US $300,000 to bolster Thackray's proposal. In January 1982, the American Chemical Society established the Center for the History of Chemistry, initially housed at the University of Pennsylvania.[8]

Thackray stated the objective of the Center for History of Chemistry to be "to discover and disseminate information about historical resources, and to encourage research, scholarship, and popular writing in the history of the chemical sciences and industries."[9]

Under Thackray's leadership, the center expanded its sponsorship and its holdings and developed its exhibits for the public. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers became a sponsor of the center with an agreement signed in 1983.[10] In 1987, the Center for History of Chemistry received a US $2 million endowment from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.[9]

During his tenure as president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, Thackray initiated a plan for the building that housed the Chemical Heritage Foundation including a museum for the general public.[11] The project plan included a US $20million renovation of a United States Civil War era bank building, the First National Bank, in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The renovated building included a two-story museum for which the first floor was a permanent gallery, with the second floor being dedicated to temporary or traveling exhibits. The museum's design was for people who are interested in learning about science in a social and historical context. The building re-design also included offices and archives. The project was complete in 2008.[11]

Under Thackray's guidance, the CHF instituted the Othmer Gold Medal award in 1997, to honor scientists who have had impact in multiple areas of materials science. Thackray assembled a group of four sponsors for the award, including the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, The Chemists' Club, and the Société de Chimie Industrielle (American Section).[12]

Thackray continued to serve as president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation until 2008, after which time he remained as a member of its Board of Directors.[13]

Thackray founded the Life Sciences Foundation in 2010.[14] The idea for the foundation was conceived at a 2009 meeting between Thackray and four biotechnology industry leaders. The group reasoned that the biotechnology industry, then 40 years old, had a poorly documented history, and it was opportune to create the foundation to document the history before it was lost.[15] The Life Sciences Foundation came into existence in 2011, serving to document the stories of biotechnology's founders and increasing public awareness of the history of biotechnology through digital archives, hard copies of relevant historical items, and a free magazine.[16]

The Life Sciences Foundation subsequently merged with the Chemical Heritage Foundation in 2015.[17] As of February 1, 2018, the organization was renamed the Science History Institute, to reflect its wider range of historical interests, from chemical sciences and engineering to the life sciences and biotechnology.[18]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Arnold Thackray, David C. Brock and Rachel Jones. Moore's Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley's Quiet Revolutionary. Basic Books, 2015, ISBN 0465055648.
  • Thackray, Arnold. "Natural Knowledge in Cultural Context: The Manchester Mode." The American Historical Review 79.3 (1974): 672-709.
  • Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray. Gentlemen of science: Early years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Oxford University Press, 1981, ISBN 0195203968.
  • Thackray, Arnold, ed. Private science: Biotechnology and the Rise of the Molecular Sciences. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998, ISBN 0812234286.
  • Arnold Thackray, Jeffrey L. Sturchio, P.T. Carroll, R.F Bud. Chemistry in America 1876–1976: Historical Indicators. Vol. 5. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, ISBN 9027726620.

Awards and honors[edit]

Thackray was the 1983 recipient of the Dexter Award of the American Chemical Society for his work on the history of chemistry.[19] In 1984, Thackray received the George Sarton Memorial Lecturer Award for the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science with a presentation entitled "The Historian's Calling in the Age of Science".[20] He was twice awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1971 and 1985).[1] Thackray is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In 2009, the American Chemical Society sponsored a symposium to honor Thackray.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Thackray became a citizen of the United States in 1981.[1]

As of 2002, Thackray resides with his wife Barbara Thackray in Wayne, Pennsylvania. During her working career, his wife was a physics teacher at the Shipley School.[22] Thackray and his wife had three children. Raising roses has been his hobby.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Arnold Thackray (1939- )" (PDF). American Chemical Society. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. ^ Baykoucheva, Svetia (Fall 2008). "The Chemical Heritage Foundation: Past, Present, and Future". Chemical Information Bulletin. 60 (2): 10–13. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Thackray, Arnold (1972). John Dalton; critical assessments of his life and science. Harvard University Press. p. About the author. ISBN 0674475259. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Department History". University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  5. ^ Manning, Kenneth. "A History of Chemistry". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  6. ^ "John H. Wotiz (1919–2001)" (PDF). American Chemical Society, Division of the History of Chemistry. American Chemical Society Dexter Awards. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "Center for History of Chemistry Inaugural". CHOC News. 1 (3): 1–5. Summer 1983.
  8. ^ Gussman, Neil. "The Power of John C. Haas's Good Name". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  9. ^ a b Carpenter, Ernest (November 16, 1987). "Chemistry History Center Receives Large Grant". Chemical & Engineering News. 65 (46): 6.
  10. ^ "American Institute of Chemical Engineers Joins CHOC Endeavor". CHOC News. 2 (1): 1–3. Spring 1984.
  11. ^ a b Arnaud, Celia Henry (October 27, 2008). "The Art of Science". Chemical and Engineering News. 86 (43): 34–36.
  12. ^ "Othmer Gold Medal". Science History Institute. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  13. ^ Reisch, Marc (June 25, 2007). "Haverford College President Thomas Tritton will take CHF Helm in January". Chemical and Engineering News. 85 (26): 11.
  14. ^ "The Life Sciences Foundation – Telling the Story of Biotechnology". Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Life Sciences Foundation Appoints Carl Feldbaum as New Board Chair", Life Sciences Foundation via Globe Newswire, San Francisco, July 2, 2014, retrieved July 19, 2015
  16. ^ Morrison, Trista (February 2, 2012). "Life Sciences Foundation Looks to Capture History of Biotech". BioWorld Today. 23 (22): 1.
  17. ^ Brubaker, Harold (October 15, 2015). "Chemical Heritage and Life Sciences foundations merging". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  18. ^ Salisbury, Stephan (January 3, 2018). "Chemical Heritage Foundation is morphing into the Science History Institute". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  19. ^ "Dexter Award for Outstanding Achievement in the History of Chemistry". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  20. ^ "George Sarton Memorial Lecture". History of Science Society. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  21. ^ "The Heritage of Chemistry: A Symposium to Honor Arnold Thackray". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  22. ^ "Weddings; Helen Thackray, Lawrence Kessner". New York Times. May 19, 2002. Retrieved 30 April 2017.

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