ACS History

ACS Logo History

The American Chemical Society logo is the symbol of unity among the national sections of the society. The first official logo was designed by Tiffany & Co. and accepted by the ACS in 1908. The logo has remained relatively the same except for moderate changes in 1987 when the Phoenix was flipped and graphics simplified. Additionally in 2008 the phrase, “Chemistry for Life” was adopted as the new tagline for the ACS and can often be found next to the logo. The Phoenix is typical of chemistry activity and emphasizes the birth of a new substance through energy.

This is a comparison of the old and new ACS logo from the March 27, 1987 Chemical and Engineering News (p. 85).

The kaliapparat in the bottom triangle is a laboratory device invented in 1831 by German chemist Justus von Liebig for analysis of carbon in organic compounds. As carbon is the basis for countless chemical reactions, determining the exact amount of it makes the purpose of the kaliapparat highly important. This tool would have been used by early chemists constantly and could even be considered a “founding tool” of chemistry.

The tool consists of a series of five glass bulbs containing a solution of potassium hydroxide [KOH], or caustic potash to absorb carbon dioxide [CO2] formed upon burning test samples.  Carbon content is calculated knowing the weight of the absorbed CO2. This reaction is similar to the “magic breath-alyzer” experiment of blowing one’s breath containing CO2 through a straw into a glass beaker containing a solution of calcium hydroxide [Ca(OH)2], or lime water, which turns visibly cloudy with precipitation of calcium carbonate [CaCO3]. The word kali derives from the Arabic qalay, “to roast in a pan”, and al-qalay, “the roasted substance, i.e. alkali; the symbol for potassium is K (kalium).

The colors of the logo, gold and cobalt blue, symbolize fire and water, key components of chemistry. It is clear the ACS logo was chosen deliberately and with care as it has stood as a symbol of continued commitment to modern excellence and traditional remembrance since its inception.

The currently used logo designed and implemented in 1987, and then modified in 2008.

The above image is part of the March 27, 1987 Chemical and Engineering News (p. 85) where the announcement of the logo alteration was placed. Little on the logo has ever been changed since its creation in 1908.

Information on the kaliapparat provided by Midland ACS member Stacy Leroy Daniels.