Chemistry has been taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology since it first opened in 1888. We began offering chemistry degrees in 1906 and had the good fortune to celebrate 100 years of chemistry with some of our alumni and friends in 2006. Among our many distinguished alumni we have one Nobel Prize winner, Kary Mullis. A brief history of our school is presented below.
The Georgia School of Technology started operations in October 1888 with five faculty members. Initially, the only degree offered was the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.
William Henry Emerson (1860-1924) served as the head of the Department of Chemistry from 1888 until shortly before his death. While chemistry was a required subject from the earliest days of Georgia Tech, a degree, “Engineering Chemistry,” was not offered until 1901. In 1905 the cornerstone of chemistry’s first building on campus, Lyman Hall Laboratory, was laid. This building was in continuous use by chemistry until 1989 when the school’s freshman lab program moved to the lower level of the newly constructed College of Computing building.
In 1906 a B.S. degree in chemistry was authorized. At this time the Department of Chemistry had three regular faculty members: W. H. Emerson, H. V. Black and G. H. Boggs. However, it was not until 1913 that George Dudley Van Epps graduated with the first B.S. degree. The degree was suspended in 1919 due to lack of enrollment and not reinstated until the 1930’s. In 1932 the first M.S. degree in chemistry was awarded to Ralph Madison Hill for his work on “The effect of neutral salts on the solubility of silver bromate in water." In 1941, following the death of Boggs, separate Schools of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering were formed. The first doctoral degree at Georgia Tech was awarded in 1946 and the school’s first Ph.D.s (four of them) were awarded in 1953 with E. Grovenstein and J. Hine as advisors. The 1950s and '60s were a period of considerable growth for chemical research at Georgia Tech. In 1963, the school graduated 10 Ph.D.s, ~1/3 of the total for Georgia Tech that year. Throughout the '70s and '80s the school continued to graduate on average more than 10 Ph.D.s per year.
Tech became coeducational in 1952, and chemistry was approved as a major for women in 1962. Jean Ray was the first woman to graduate with a degree in chemistry (1965). Currently, ~55 percent of our undergraduates and ~45 percent of our graduate students are female.
In 1992 the school recognized the growing importance of biochemistry by changing its name to the “School of Chemistry and Biochemistry." Since that time the number of faculty members engaged in biological chemistry has continued to grow and the number of students interested in this aspect of chemistry has also grown considerably. In 2007, the school started to offer a B.S. degree in biochemistry in addition to the ACS-certified B.S. degree in chemistry that it has offered for many years. This addition led to considerable growth in the total number of undergraduate majors within the school.