News and Highlights from Substantia

Joseph B. Lambert HIST Award for 2024 to James L. and Virginia R. Marshall

The recipients of the 2024 Joseph B. Lambert HIST Award of the Division of the History of Chemistry (HIST) of the American Chemical Society are James L. and Virginia R. Marshall.  James Marshall is an Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Texas, Denton, TX. Virginia Marshall, although not a chemist by training, was Jim’s partner in their work on the history of the chemical elements.  The HIST Award is for outstanding achievement in the history of chemistry and is international in scope. This award is the successor to the Dexter Award (1956-2001) and the Sydney M. Edelstein Award (2002-2009), also administered by HIST.

The HIST Award consists of an engraved plaque and a check for $1500 and will be presented to Professor Marshall at the fall national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver, CO, in August 2024. Additional information about the award can be found on the HIST website at


Paul R. Jones Best Paper Award for 2022 to Charles S. Weinert

The recipient of the 2022 Paul R. Jones Outstanding Paper Award of the Division of the History of Chemistry (HIST) of the American Chemical Society is Charles S. Weinert.  The paper was “Die Chemie ist Schwierig:  Winkler and the Discovery of Germanium,” Bulletin of the History of Chemistry, v45 (issue 1), 2020, pp. 8-15. The award is presented to the authors of the best paper published in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry during the previous three years, 2020, 2021, 2022.

The Paul R. Jones Outstanding Paper Award consists of an engraved plaque and a check for $250 from HIST and a book award plus a check for $150 from the Science History Institute.  Additional information about the award can be found on the HIST website at


Paul R. Jones Best Paper Award for 2021 to Vera V. Mainz, Gregory S. Girolami and Dean F. Martin

The recipient of the 2021 Paul R. Jones Outstanding Paper Award of the Division of the History of Chemistry (HIST) of the American Chemical Society is Vera V. Mainz and Professor Gregory S. Girolami (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dean F. Martin (University of South Florida).  The paper was “The First African American Chemistry Doctorate Recipient,” Bulletin of the History of Chemistry, v46 (issue 1), 2021, pp. 83-107. The award is presented to the authors of the best paper published in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry during the previous three years, 2019, 2020, 2021.

The Paul R. Jones Outstanding Paper Award consists of an engraved plaque and a check for $250 from HIST and a book award plus a check for $150 from the Science History Institute.  Additional information about the award can be found on the HIST website at


Paul R. Jones Best Paper Award for 2018 to Seth C. Rasmussen

The recipient of the 2018 Paul R. Jones Outstanding Paper Award of the Division of the History of Chemistry of the American Chemical Society is Professor of Chemistry Seth C. Rasmussen of North Dakota State University.  The paper was “Cuprene: A Historical Curiosity Along the Path to Polyacetylene,” Bulletin of the History of Chemistry, v42 (issue 1), 2017, pp. 63-78. The award is presented to the author of the best paper published in the Bulletin for the History of Chemistry during the previous three years, 2016, 2017, 2018.


Open Letter to the Russian Academy of Sciences

In these gloomy times we join the appeal of the Australian National University concerning the situation in Ukraine. 

We express our wholehearted solidarity with our Russian colleagues who, from inside Russia, have recently expressed a strong protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As of Thursday March 3, nearly 7,000 Russian  scientists and academics have signed an open letter  to the Russian President Vladimir Putin in which they say, inter alia: “We, Russian scientists [scholars] and science journalists strongly protest against the military invasion of Ukraine launched by Russia. This disastrous course of action has caused enormous casualties and human suffering, and undermines the foundations of the international rule-based order. The responsibility for unleashing a new war in Europe is entirely Russia’s. It is obvious that Ukraine does not represent any threat to the security of our country. The war against Ukraine is unjust and absolutely senseless.”


Remembering Salvatore Califano

Salvatore Califano, distinguished member of the Scientific Committee, passed away yesterday.

He was born in Naples on 21 June 1931, emeritus professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence, where he founded and directed the European Laboratory of Non-linear Spectroscopy (LENS). Califano was a member of the Lincei Academy, the European Academy, the Italian Chemical Society, the La Colombaria Academy, the Turin Academy of Sciences and organizer/director of several schools (NATO, SIF, Gordon) and international congresses, member of the international committee of the Max Planck Gesellschaft for the Minerva (Germany-Israel) program in Laser-matter interaction, of the Physical and Biophysical Chemistry section of IUPAC between 2002 and 2005, and of the scientific council of various international laboratories.


Farewell to Françoise and to Tito Fortunato

It is with the deepest sorrow that I have to announce the unexpected passing away of Françoise Martine Winnik and and of Tito Fortunato Arecchi, both members of our Scientific Committee.

Chère Françoise, caro Tito, we will sincerely miss your human kindness, profound scientific expertise, knowledge and wisdom. Thank you for being somehow part of our story. Through your work and in your relationships you certainly made the world a better place.


Honoring the memory of the victims. 2021 International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Piero Sarti-Fantoni, a member of our Scientific Committee, passed away on April 21, 2020, after a struggle with Covid19. After his graduation in Chemistry, in the mid 60's he moved to London and had a chance to meet Christopher Ingold, at UCL. Then he became Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Florence, and studied the synthesis and reactivity of isoxazole derivatives.

About 20 years ago, Piero found in his house a remarkable document, that shed light on something he did not know about his adoptive family. Renato and Beatrice Fantoni in 1944 hosted and hid in their house Eugenio Artom, his wife Giuliana Treves, and their butler Amedeo, Florentine Jews, and saved them from the Nazi-fascist criminals. 


In memoriam - Sir John Meurig Thomas

Sir John Meurig Thomas passed away on 17 November 2020, at the age of 87.

He has been with us since the beginning of our editorial story, as a distinguished member of the Scientific Committee.

One of the top level international scholars in solid state catalysis and particularly on zeolites, he dedicated much of his work to the dissemination and communication of science to the widest audience.


In Memory of Pietro Greco

Friday, December 18, 2020, Pietro Greco, 65, suddenly passed away.

Chemist and historian of science, internationally renowned expert in science communication, Greco dedicated his entire life to his work. Prolific and courageous journalist, he was the author of numerous essays, television and radio broadcasts. 

He was co-editor of "La Scienza in rete" and among the founders of the City of Science in Naples and the Master in Science Communication in Trieste. 


Substantia: Open Stream on the Covid-19 Emergency


The current circumstances that we are experiencing, with the massive spreading of Covid-19 from the Far East to Europe, to the US and to the rest of the world, motivate us to publish a special issue of Substantia dedicated to the coronavirus epidemic that is ravaging our societies.
The reasons are:
1) Publish significant scientific contributions on this topic.
2) Reaffirm our views in terms of Open Access, Open Data, free circulation of ideas and results.
3) Oppose real scientific facts to fake news.

Concretely, our project is to publish one special volume on different subjects such as:

• Up-to-date review(s) on coronavirus research
• The Chemistry of antiviral drugs
• The history and perspectives of Immunochemistry, from vaccines to monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies
• Social/economic consequences of epidemics
• The responsibility of humans in the spreading of epidemics
• Historical insights from previous epidemics (plagues, Spanish flu, etc.)
• Relevance of open data instant exchange for a fast moving society

As the situation changes very quickly, we will create an “open stream” section of Substantia to speed up the publication. Shorter contributions such as preprints and editorials will be particularly appreciated.

This project will be an open lab, work in progress for the entire duration of the Covid-19 emergency.

Click here for further information.



Sharing to fight Covid-19

We share the Youtube link with the speech recorded by the President of our University concerning the circumstances we are living at the moment due to Covid-19:


Watch the full video here:

Substantia strongly supports the communication of well-founded scientific information and the adoption of all necessary actions to prevent or limit the propagation of the infection.


International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020

It’s 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and the devastation of the Jewish communities and individuals throughout Europe in the horrors of the Holocaust.

As the years have passed, there are fewer left of the generation who suffered or witnessed the large-scale organisation of “the final solution” of the “Jewish problem”, as well as Romanys or gays. It was  the biggest, most deliberate and systematic mass killing, or genocide ever to have taken place on this planet.

The scale is too big for us to imagine or comprehend. When we speak of one life being like an entire universe, words are inadequate to speak of the annihilation of six million people across the continent of Europe!


IYPT 2019 Substantia Special Issues


Substantia proudly contributes to the celebration of 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table with the publication of six special issues, edited by eminent experts from our Scientific Committee:  
  • Seth C. Rasmussen, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, North Dakota State University
    History of Energy Technologies and Lessons for the Future
  • Vincenzo Balzani, Department of Chemistry “G. Ciamician”, University of Bologna
    An Energy Transition To Save The Planet
  • Marc Henry, Chimie Moléculaire du Solide Institut Le Bel, Strasbourg
    Water in biology: What is so special about it?
  • Brigitte Van Tiggelen, Science History Institute, Philadelphia; Annette Lykknes, Norwegian University of Science and Technology & Luis Moreno-Martinez, López Piñero Institute for Science Studies, University of Valencia
    The periodic system, a history of shaping and sharing
  • Mary Virginia Orna, ChemSource, Inc., New Rochelle & Marco Fontani, Department of Chemistry “U. Schiff”, University of Florence
    Development of the periodic system and its consequences
  • Luigi Campanella, Department of Chemistry, “Sapienza” University of Rome
    Open Science  
You can find all the articles in the special section "IYPT 2019" of our website, or at the following link: 


International Symposium "The Periodic Table: our Legacy for Current Challenges"


Substantia is proud to announce the International Symposium

"The Periodic Table. Our Legacy for Current Challenges"

that will take place November 27 at 10 AM in the Salone Brunelleschi (Spedale degli Innocenti), Piazza Santissima Annunziata, Firenze (Italy). The event program is:

  • Greetings and Introduction - Luigi Dei | President of the University of Florence
  • The celebration of the Periodic Table - Pierandrea Lo Nostro | Editor-in-Chief of Substantia
  • Overlook on Substantia - Duccio Tatini | University of Florence
  • Sending light on the Periodic Table - Vincenzo Balzani | University of Bologna
  • International Year of the Periodic Table. The art of commemorating and what history of science can do for scientists - Brigitte Van Tiggelen | Science History Institute, Paris
  • The Women Behind the Periodic System and What These Stories Can Teach us About Science? - Annette Lykknes | Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim

During the event we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the International Periodic Table and will launch the six special issues of Substantia dedicated to energy and sustainability, water, open science, and the periodic table. 

We do believe that knowing our past is necessary for the present challenges and even more for a future of prosperity, sustainability and awareness. This is the spirit that guides us in our mission.


The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019

Substantia sincerely congratulates the 2019 Nobel Laureates for Chemistry, John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, in recognition of their work for the “development of lithium-ion batteries”.

John Goodenough is a professor of mechanical engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

Stanley Whittingham is a chemistry professor at Binghamton University and director of both the Institute for Materials Research and the Materials Science and Engineering program.

Akira Yoshino is a honorary fellow with Asahi Kasei Corporation and a professor at Meijo University in Nagoya.

We, as scientists and citizens of our world, are particularly pleased by the words that the Nobel committee used in the proclamation: the three scientists “have created the right conditions for a wireless and fossil fuel-free society, and so brought the greatest benefit to humankind.”


Peer Review Week 2019


Materials chemist and chemist-historian Seth C. Rasmussen (North Dakota State University) shares his views on peer review as both editor and reviewer for Peer Review Week, Sept. 16-20th, 2019. In the process, it is stressed that reviewing goes beyond simply checking the validity of the material and methodology presented in a paper, and should help authors to publish the best possible version of their manuscript. This includes making sure that the work is written for an audience beyond the specialist of the particular subject covered, and that it is clear and accessible to the general reader. Other topics discussed include how journals can ensure good reviewing by recruiting and retaining a community of experts willing to produce high quality reviews, as well as tips for new reviewers, and the importance of reviewing for not only the scientific community, but for the general public as well. In terms of the general public, peer review is critical to ensure the high-quality communication of science, which is necessary to strengthen the public's trust of the scientific literature.


A Small Step for a Man

When on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped for the first time in history on the surface of the Moon, he said these famous words: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Apparently there was also a small “a” in his sentence, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. The meaning and story of this little difference can be found online.1

2019 is an interesting year for celebrating anniversaries.

Not only for the first landing on the Moon.

It is also the 500th anniversary since the death of Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise, France.

And, of course, the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Periodic Table by Dmitry Mendeleev.

The genius of Mendeleev gave us one of the most outstanding systems to understand and classify the elements, a demonstration of the human mind’s capability to investigate the deepest nature of matter and predict its behavior.

It is a spectacular example of how we catch and reorder and give priority to different data.

In Leonardo da Vinci, as in several other extraordinary men and women, the intrinsic inner beauty of Nature is caught and understood by the human mind. Art, science and engineering combine in a unique and mysterious game.

The “small step” of Armstrong on the Moon reflects the boundless epic attitude of Ulysses, the everlasting spirit of every man and woman to overcome limits and open up new horizons. Actually it is more than just an attitude, it is a need for our species.

Thanks Dmitry, Leonardo and Neil. You do represent some of the giant jumps that all mankind has made since the beginning of time.

Actually the best steps we can do on this planet. And in the entire universe.


July 16, 2019




International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019

Stumbling Rocks

Last September, during a solemn and memorable ceremony, the University of Pisa mustered all the Italian Universities to commemorate the expulsion of Jewish lecturers and students  in compliance with the Racial Laws promulgated in 1938 by the Fascist regime. 

Eighty years after that infamy, the Pisa event marked a significant day of remembrance and elaboration, with the official apologies of the academy, and with the posting of a commemorative plaque. A long lasting tangible sign.

Currently in Italy, that looks dangerously bewildered, revisionism and fake legitimacy seem to take over and creep in. Moreover, also because of the inevitable passing of the last Holocaust Witnesses, there is a need I would say urgent that even places, and not just people, "talk" to us.

The example that I bring here is that of the "Stolpersteine", i.e. the stumbling blocks that only recently arrived in Italy. They bring evidence, in a successful cooperation between Art and Memory, on the broken lives of those who were hunted by the Nazis and the Fascists up until the extreme consequences. A visible testimony and an evidence suitable to all who walk down the street. 

If you do not stumble, your eyes will notice the stone. Reading those names, looking at the dates of birth and of death of unknown people generates an almost instinctive desire to try to get some more information. The initiative is gradually extending from North to South Italy for persecuted people because of race or politics, anti-fascist priests and soldiers who refused to join the Fascist Social Republic (RSI) after the armistice.

A patrimony of memories that, if wisely implemented, perhaps will save us from the abyss. 

Adam Smulevich



Keep dreaming


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.1


Dr. Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, ninety years ago. And on January 21, 2019 the US will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The “black redeemer”.

Apparently there are several fundamental reasons why we hate and discriminate other members of our own species.

Among these, a different content of melanins in our melanocytes that determine the color of the skin, hair and eyes.

Maybe a different silhouette and look.

Or maybe a different language or dialect.

Maybe a different set of habits? Everybody has different traditions.

The recurring word is “different”. It comes from a Latin verb, differre: separate one from the other, carrying away, diversify.

Out of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, some people may be scared by ethnic variety, and feel vulnerable before human migrations. And the astute politicians know how to ride this wave of insecurity.

Earth has no borders. When you fly in a plane you do not see colorful flags flapping in the wind. You rather see one land, with rivers, hills, plains and mountains, woods, deserts, oceans, plants and animals. Happily different and diverse. Offering resources and opportunities to everybody.

Entropy pushes toward mixing, and enthalpy can help.

Thank you Martin Luther King for your dream. It is still ours, your voice will resound in our ears at least until diversity will imply exclusion, discrimination and segregation.


  1. “I have a dream...” © 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. ( Last accessed on Jan 10, 2022).


Noblesse oblige

Nov 11, 1918: the end of World War I. The first of the two worldwide useless slaughters. The first where chemistry played a huge damned role.

No heroes. No winners. No warriors. No justice. No peace. It’s a pity that peace lasted only 21 years after that.

Just a red ocean of blood and a gigantic bunch of miserable, ripped human remains, pieces of bodies thrown here and there, mutilations, mixed with torn photographs, letters, medals, dirty clothes, small signs of lost innocent lives, in the fumes of an idiotic apocalypse.

A triumph of weeping people. Silently crying tears of death, suffering, rapes, starvation, losses and despair.

Every single country has its own temple to the Unknown Soldier. Impressive burials for one single dead young man representing all those who died with no name.

You hypocrite! Celebrating the sacrifice of the many victims does not dismiss the conviction of war criminals with their smoking guns.

There is only one sincere way to celebrate the end of WWI: Stop all wars! Now.It’s a dream, a fantasy, an illusion. Wars are so lucrative.

Rather, remember the spontaneous cease-fires around Christmas day in those years between the opposed soldiers, in their muddy trenches. Suddenly the nobody’s land became everybody’s land. They were real men, they knew what brotherhood, comprehension, peacefulness, real hard work means.

And this is what we want to celebrate. Make their sacrifice useful.

Peace be with you all.



One face. No race

Greeks and Italians look pretty similar. They have similar habits. Landscapes, fragrances and food are almost identical. There is a popular expression that reflects this peculiar opinion. In English it sounds like "One face. One race". 

Apart from being a funny and well-matched expression, it implies the existence of a race for humans.

In the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the promulgation of the fascist Racial Laws in Italy on 17 November 1938, that paved the way to the most atrocious abomination perpetrated against innocent people, we do reaffirm that a human race does not exist at all. Genetics and science in general cannot be abused to justify this repugnant lie.1 

In the present time rumors, fears, hatred and resentment against other people reappear at all latitudes. And some add fuel to the flames.

We do not want to fall again and again in the same situation as 80 years ago.

We all have one face. And there is no race. 

Firenze, 28 September 2018 

1: Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza. Genes, Peoples, and Languages (translated by Mark Seielstad), North Point Press: New York, 2000.


Cover page of the journal "Difesa della razza" (The defense of the race).

The first issue was published on 5 August 1938, until 1943, in Rome.