Younger Chemists Committee

Serving the Needs of Early Career Chemists


The first ACS Committee dealing with nomenclature was the Committee on Nomenclature and Notation. It was formed in 1886 only ten years after the founding of the Society.  In 1911, the name was changed to the Committee on Nomenclature, Spelling, and Pronunciation.  Further transition led to the current name – the Committee on Nomenclature, Terminology, and Symbols (NTS). The NTS later formed a relationship with Chemical Abstracts: a connection which is retained today with a Committee member, Consultant, and Staff Liaison from the Chemical Abstracts Service.   

The responsibilities of NTS include:  acting on behalf of the ACS Council in matters relating to the usage of nomenclature, terminology, symbols, and units;  coordinating activities within the ACS;  consulting/advising editors of ACS publications;  initiating, reviewing, and recommending adoptions of documents/proposals, as appropriate;  liaise with other national and international organizations, committees, and commissions similarly involved;  and providing a means for ACS members to participate in the consideration of these matters.

This broad charge involves a current committee of 18 members, 7 associates, and 2 consultants. The NTS meets at each National ACS meeting and consists of 4 sub-committees:  Long Range Planning, Communication/Outreach, Education, and Liaison. Members are active at all academic educational levels from government, academia, and industry.

Some members serve or are in liaison with committees of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). This organization is the world authority on chemical nomenclature, standardized methods for measurement, atomic weights, etc. and it functions as an association of non-governmental National Adhering Organizations (NAO). It represents chemists of different member countries and was founded in 1919 during an era of international harmony after World War I.  A need for agreement on organic nomenclature was the impetus for international meetings on nomenclature in Geneva (1892) and as early as 1860, led by August Kekule. The official NAO body representing the U.S. in IUPAC is the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, via its U.S National Committee for IUPAC. They in turn seek input from organizations such as the American Chemical Society and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

An NTS member was responsible for writing and final editing of the 1600 page Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry, IUPAC Recommendations and Preferred Names 2013, the new edition of the IUPAC Blue Book (a twenty year project).  Projects are underway in other areas, including polymers, nanomaterials, flavonoids, enzymes, carbohydrates, and small molecules of biological interest.

The NTS has interest and representatives reporting on developments in SI (International System of Units) and metrology in chemistry and biology as well as the procedure for naming new elements.

A controversial topic which has currently engendered considerable discussion is the proposed redefinitions of the Mole and Kilogram by the Consultative Committee on Metrology in Chemistry and Biology (CCQM) which is a part of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). There is a strong desire to define all units in terms of reference, measurable physical constants rather than comparison with physical objects.  The majority of readers will undoubtedly recall that for mass there is a standard kilogram made of platinum and iridium, the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK). It is located in Paris France and a copy at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  The problem with these “standard kilogram masses” is that there appear to be changes in mass with time, on the order of micrograms (ca. 50 µg/100 yr) thought to be due to atmospheric contamination or losses due to periodic “cleaning.”  The CCQM and BIPM are recommending that the kilogram be redefined relative to Planck’s constant.  One can obtain a value for the kilogram via an instrument (a watt-balance) which determines the velocity of a mass moving under the influence of gravity—both mechanical and electrical measurements   [M. Stock, “Watt Balance Experiments for the Determination of Planck’s Constant and the Definition of the Kilogram”, Metrologia (2013), 50(1), R1-R16]. The NIST is at the forefront of watt balance development. Similarly, it is proposed to define the mole (actually they prefer to talk about “amount of substance”) in terms of Avogadro’s “constant” instead of the present amount of a species having the same number of units as atoms within 12.0000 g of carbon-12. 

The NTS cosponsored symposia on various aspects of these issues at national ACS meetings since 2010.  Articles have also appeared in Chemical and Engineering News [P.F. Rusch, “Redefining the Kilogram and Mole”, C&EN, (2011), 89(22), 58, May 11] and the Journal of Chemical Education [R.S. Davis, ”What is a Kilogram in the Revised International System of Units (SI)?”, J. Chem. Educ. , (2015), 1604 (October)]. The NTS also presented posters on these topics at National meetings.

Thus, it can be seen that the NTS deals with items of interest not only for specialists but also for the greater chemistry community.  Meetings are held on Monday afternoons at National ACS Meetings. Please feel free to attend the open session or volunteer.


Robert A. Yokley, Ph.D.,

Retiree, Manager, Syngenta Analytical Resources Group

Councilor, Central North Carolina Section


 Wayne C. Wolsey, Ph.D., wolsey@

Professor Emeritus, Macalester College               

Councilor, MN ACS Section, ACS Fellow