A Brief History of the Florida Section of
the American Chemical Society
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Florida
Section it seems appropriate on this occasion to make available to the
membership an abridged current version of the history of the Section. A
more complete version has appeared in the April 1967 issue of Flacs.
The first communication to reach ACS headquarters on the possibility
of forming a Florida Section came from Ralph Perkins in January 1923. He
was a graduate student in chemistry at the University of Florida. Dr. Charles
L. Parsons, ACS National Secretary, replied that 20 members in good standing
was the minimum number required to sign a petition for a section charter. At
that time the ACS Board of Directors had gone on record as opposing the esta-
blishment of new sections encompassing large geographical areas. In fact, it
favored reducing the size of existing sections so that no one would be more
than 50 miles from a section headquarter in order to be able to attend meetings
with some regularity.
At this time, there were only 30 members in all of Florida: Gainesville (6),
Jacksonville (5), Tampa (4), Lakeland (2), Miami (2), Nichols (2), Pensacola (2)
and one (1) each in seven other locations. Seven former ACS members resided
in Florida and six others had not paid any dues for over two years. When three
more became delinquent in 1923 Mr. Perkins made no further overtures for a
It would appear that the reality of a Florida Section was doomed for some
time and may well have been if Dr. William J. Husa had not come into the picture.
He came to Florida in August 1923 to teach Pharmacy at Gainesville after having
earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Iowa. He was by then a charter
member of the Delaware Section and had also been associated with the New York
and Iowa Sections. Disturbed by the lack of ACS activity in Florida he sought
and received local support to seek to form a Florida Section or at least to have
members residing in Florida assigned to the nearest active section. He wrote
to Dr. Parsons on August 23, 1923 and received an answer on September 5 with the
same discouraging data previously sent to Mr. Perkins. It was also observed
that there was little point assigning members to a section so distant that they
could hardly be expected to attend the meetings. Dr. Husa wrote back that there
was enthusiasm and need for a Section and that an exception be made. He was sure
a section would move some non-member chemists to join the ACS. He even produced
a petition to this effect. Moreover, he suggested that even if Gainesville were
to become the Section Headquarter, meetings would be rotated to other cities in
the State. A petition for a charter with 24 signatures was mailed on October 27,
1923 requesting a Florida Section Charter. It was acknowledged November 1, 1923.
The exception was approved by the Directors on December 8 and by December 12 the
National Office asked that there be an organizational meeting and election of
officers. A charter was issued January 4, 1924 signed by Dr. Leo Baekeland
National President as his first official act (see attached copy of charter). The
organizational meeting was held in Gainesville on January 19, 1924 and a slate
of officers were elected: Chairman Townes Leigh, 1st Vice Chairman C. A.
Haskew, 2nd Vice Chairman Milo Daughters, Sec-Treasurer Fred Heath, Councilor-
William J. Husa.
The Florida Section was born and the midwife in the delivery was Dr. William
Husa who retired several years ago as professor emeritus of pharmacy and at the
age of 78 enjoys good health.
Up to World War II the growth of the Section was slow. At the War's end
professional chemical activity in Florida quickened. The agricultural, citrus,
phosphate and pine tar industries became more involved in research and develop-
ment; the educational institutions were preparing for greater enrollments in
the sciences; graduate degree programs in chemistry were spreading to all the
major four year institutions; more colleges and universities were coming into
existence. Thus, until 1948 rotating of Section meetings was an adequate
procedure but now several cities have sufficient members to hold their own
meetings and considered the formation of sections. In fact, Santa Rosa and
Escambia counties petitioned to withdraw at the 1948 meeting in Pensacola so
the Pensacola Mobile Bay Section might be formed. This was approved.
The Section began a journal in February 1946 edited by Dr. S.S. Block,
and in November it was officially named Flacs. It began as a mimeo but by
January 1947 it was printed commercially. Despite the unifying effect of Flacs,
it appeared that further splitting into new sections might occur. Local meetings
which were not full Section meetings were authorized to use ACS tour speakers.
From this may have come the concept of holding the Section together by organizing
it into subsections.
Dr. Karl Dittmer, FSU, first suggested official subsection arrangements and
drew up proposed boundaries. The Executive Committee authorized subsections with
their own officers and meetings, but three full section meetings a year were to be
held, including a Meeting-in-Miniature. The first Meeting-in-Miniature was held
in 1948 at Lakeland. Membership of the section reached 500 by 1953, and there
were four subsections: Gainesville, Lakeland, Miami, and Tallahassee. Flacs first
used the word "Subsection" in November 1953. The Orlando Subsection was formed
in December 1955; Tampa Bay in April, 1956; Jacksonville in 1962; and Cape Kennedy
in December 1966.
Membership climbed to 1000 in 1964, and in 1974 on our 50th anniversary it
is over 1800, represented nationally by six councilors. Activities include presen-
tation of awards, including the Florida Award to recognize outstanding Southern
chemists, the High School Chemistry Teacher Award to recognize outstanding Florida
high school teachers, and the Civic Service Award to recognize chemists for contri-
butions in civic service to Florida communities. On the basis of Subsection
activities shown in the 1963 annual report, the Section received the 1965 Member
Relations Award from the ACS.
Our situation today is best reflected in a statement made some years ago by
Dr. Harry Schultz of Miami which is still appropriate: "...We of the Florida
Section are solving our problems of SERVICE, service to ourselves and service to
others, by the art of rearrangement- a geographical subsection program operating
within our Section framework, and extensively utilizing talent on both state and
local levels ..."
We are all grateful and in a larger sense indebted to the literally hundreds
of Section members who make large and small contributions of their time and effort
at the National, State and Subsection level to keep the inexorable monster rolling.
Time marches on!