Gustavus John Esselen

- a brief history of he award

In 1985 an inquiry was made as to whether the Section would wish to honor another former leader of the Northeastern Section. The Esselen family proposed to donate a sum of money to provide for an award in the memory of Gustavus John Esselen II, Chairman in 1922 and 1923, and a member of the ACS Board of Directors for many years. In 1948, Dr. Esselen received a special award, the James Flack Norris Honor Scroll, "as the person who has done most to advance the interests of the Northeastern Section." A committee consisting of William O. Foye, Truman S. Light, Arthur S. Obermayer, and Myron S. Simon, Section Chairman, met with Esselen's son, Gustavus J. Esselen III, and recommended to the Board of Directors that the Section accept the offer, which it did. The committee and Mr. Esselen agreed that the award should not be in a specific field of chemistry, but instead should have the special purpose of emphasizing the positive values of chemistry to mankind. In light of the climate of the day, with the disaster of Bhopal on every chemist's mind and the public receiving nothing but negative stories about chemistry from the media, this was to be a small step toward establishing a balance.

Mr. Esselen proposed to add a bronze medal to the monetary award. A prominent sculptor from Newton, Massachusetts, Lloyd Lillie, was selected to prepare the design which was then approved by members of the Esselen family. The fact that Dr. Esselen had done much work in plastics during his career led his son to propose that the bronze medal be imbedded in a block of clear plastic, which was done, to give a very distinctive addition to the ceremonial presentation.

The first presentation of the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest was made in 1987 to F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina for their work on the chemical processes which were destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, explaining the formation of the Antarctic Ozone Hole. Since then, the award has been given to chemists in several fields of chemistry and has become a much coveted prize.

- Myron S. Simon, assisted by Phyllis A. Brauner, Arno Heyn and Arthur S. Obermayer with suggestions from Edward R. Atkinson. "The Last Quarter Century, Part I," The Nucleus, Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society, Inc., February, 1998, pp 17-18.