International Year of Chemistry, 2011

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International Year of Chemistry 2011

IYC opening at UNESCO

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The Year Begins!

Echoes from Paris

Feb 11, 2011

The official launch ceremony of the International Year of Chemistry 2011 took place on 27-28 January in Paris at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Over 1,000 delegates from 60 countries—including four Nobel Prize Winners, diplomats, government ministers, and dignitaries—took part in the much-anticipated opening ceremony.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova delivered the opening address with a challenge of sorts for the worlds chemists: “After a century of rapid advances, chemistry today stands at a crossroads . . .” According to Bokova, there are two major issues that the field must address:
1. Chemistry must become a science that is better shared and better known.
2. The chemistry of the future must be a responsible science.

IUPAC President Nicole Moreau, the second speaker, explained why and how IUPAC had come to lead the IYC with UNESCO. She also implored chemists to do everything in their power to change the terrible public image of chemistry.

The Official Welcome and Inauguration portion of the ceremony also included these eminent speakers:
• Valérie Pécresse, minister of higher education and research, France
• Teshome Toga, ambassador of Ethiopia to France
• Senator Andrei Guriev, on behalf of the Russian Federation
• Catherine Bréchignac, ICSU president
• Mehdi Drissi, on behalf of the director general of FAO

Jean-Marie Lehn of France, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1987, framed the importance of the year in his talk, titled “From Matter to Life: Chemistry!”: “The essence of chemistry is not just to discover but to create novel expressions of complex matters. The book of chemistry is not just to be read, it is to be written.”

The rest of the opening ceremony was divided into three sections: Chemistry and the Progress of Civilization, Women in Chemistry, and Global Trends and Perspectives: Chemistry and Sustainable Development.

Among the notable speakers was Marie Sklodowska Curie’s grand daughter Prof Hélène Langevin-Joliot, director of research at CNRS. Her inspiring talk about her grandmother, “A Woman Scientist Disproving the Myth,” reinforced the central importance of Marie Curie to the year-long celebration of chemistry.

For more details and access to photos and videos, see this activity main page.

View here the full video recording of the Jan 29, 2011 official French-Polish celebration of Marie Curie.