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Research at University of British Columbia receives historical recognition

The groundbreaking research of chemist Neil Bartlett proving that the noble gases are not inert will be designated an International Historic Chemical Landmark in a special ceremony at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on May 23. The noble gases are now used in eye surgery and to fight tumors. The American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society, sponsors the Landmarks program.

Before Bartletts research, chemists had believed the noble gases, also called inert or rare gases, were chemically unable to react. That meant, according to the conventional wisdom, that these gases helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon and radon could not form compounds. The supposed inability of the rare gases to react chemically became a staple of textbooks.

That changed in the early 1960s when Neil Bartlett, Ph.D., then a chemist at the University of British Columbia, demonstrated the first reaction of a noble gas. Bartlett combined xenon with a platinum fluoride to create the first noble gas compound. Today, noble gas compounds produce laser beams that are used in eye surgery and create anti-tumor agents, and they show promise as green chemistry reagents for more environmentally-friendly processes.

James D. Burke, Ph.D., Chair of the ACS Board of Directors, will present a commemorative bronze plaque to Grant Ingram, Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia. Also participating in the plaque presentation will be David Schwass, Vice President and incoming President of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, cosponsor of the Landmark.

Bartlett was born in the United Kingdom in 1932. He was appointed a lecturer in chemistry at the University of British Columbia in 1958; in 1966, he became a professor of chemistry at Princeton University while also serving as a member of the research staff at Bell Laboratories. In 1969 he joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, retiring
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Contact: Judah Ginsberg
j_ginsberg@acs.org
202-872-6274
American Chemical Society
10-May-2006


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