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Techniques & Tools Liquid Chromatography, Gas Chromatography, Education

A Day to Remember

Several official annual international days are established by resolutions of the United Nations or other agencies, such as UNESCO, UNEP and WHO. Often the chief aim of these “days” is to raise awareness of international issues, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, they exist to remind us of past events that deserve to be honored. Whatever the special day, activities and celebrations take place all over the world to shine a spotlight on everything from nature to scientific achievements to world heritage (1).

However, Ι could not find an International Day related to Chemistry. National celebrations exist – some of them taking place over a week. For example, National Chemistry Week in the US, organized by the American Chemical Society (ACS), was celebrated October 21–27 in 2018, and encouraged ACS members and other science enthusiasts to raise awareness of chemistry at the local level, promoting the importance of chemistry in everyday life (2). In 2019, it will take place October 22-26 (National Chemistry Week Themes). The Royal Chemical Society (RSC) also celebrates Chemistry Week (in 2019, it will take place (date TBC); once again, it’s an annual celebration of the chemical sciences that aims to share the passion of chemists with the public. Similarly, the Chemical Institute of Canada hosts an annual National Chemistry Week(date TBC) that celebrates the chemical sciences in all provinces and territories in Canada. In 2018, it connected a multi-age audience with the “magic” of chemistry through experiments, games, demonstrations, lectures, exhibitions and much more (4). In Greece, since 1995, we have celebrated the National Day of Chemistry on the March 11 but, in fact, events take place over several days, either in schools or organized by the Association of Greek Chemists in various divisions in Greece (5) (6).

All of these events represent excellent opportunities to organize events and activities that connect chemistry with local people and communities. And they can also go a long way to eliminating what is called “chemophobia.” Indeed, non-scientists tend to adjust their attitudes to chemical sciences, as they realize – in an accessible way – that chemistry is present and part of their everyday lives (3). But these celebrations and events need not be limited to chemistry as a whole – couldn’t they be extended to more specific annual days.

What about “Chromatography Day” as an idea?!

All analytical chemists are aware of the significance of this separation science – introduced by the “father of chromatography,” Russian botanist Mikhail Semyonovich Tsvet. But does it deserve its own international day?

Well, thanks to the thorough work of many researchers, huge advances have been reported, and several types of chromatography have been applied to determine countless analytes in almost any kind of matrix. And it is worth noting that twelve Nobel Chemistry awards (up until 1972) have been given to scientists whose research was largely based on chromatographic methods (7,8). The number of chromatography applications has grown dramatically over the past fifty years, and this is due both to the development of new chromatographic techniques and to the increasing demand for novel, sensitive and more effective methods for the separation and identification of complex mixtures. Gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and supercritical fluid chromatography, hyphenated with high sophisticated detectors, have given rise to numerous breakthrough publications that have ultimately given rise to invaluable tools in the hands of medical doctors, veterinarians, food scientists, biologists, geologists… The list goes on and on.

The method was first described on December 30, 1901 at the XI Physicians and Physicians Conference in St. Petersburg, so that might be a good choice for an international Chromatography Day. That said, the term chromatography – from the Greek words chroma (color) and graphein (writing) – wasn’t used until 1906… Any additional recommendations? Please do let The Analytical Scientist editors know (edit@theanalyticalscientist.com).

OK – I’ll admit that a special day set aside for chromatography may be a little ambitious at this stage. And besides, doesn’t our highly significant field – and those within it – deserve to be celebrated every day of the year?

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About the Author

Victoria Samanidou

Victoria Samanidou is based at the Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece.

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