A brief history of the SCF

The history of the Société Chimique de France began in 1857, on the initiative of Jacques Arnaudon, Ernest Collinet and Giuseppe Ubaldini. These three passionate young chemists used to meet every week in a Parisian café to discuss the latest chemistry work. Joined by a few others, they founded the Chemical Society of Paris and on June 30, 1857 elected its first president, Jacques Arnaudon.

In June 1858, under the chairmanship of Aimé Girard, the Chemical Society of Paris undertook its institutionalization. It admitted into its midst several renowned chemists, such as Louis Pasteur, Auguste Cahours and Charles-Adolphe Wurtz, and quickly dismissed the real founders. On December 28, 1858, Jean-Baptiste Dumas was elected member and president by simple acclamation. Louis Pasteur and Auguste Cahours became vice-presidents at the same time. With what looks like a coup d’état, the young Society, born from an informal process, quickly transformed into a Learned Society.

The Chemical Society of Paris took the name of Chemical Society of France in 1906, after the creation of the first sections. In 1983, the Chemical Society of France merged with the Physical Chemistry Society. Then named Société Française de Chimie, it was recognized as a public utility in 1985. Since 2008, the Société Française de Chimie has resumed its name of Société Chimique de France.

The SCF, Joseph-Achille Le Bel and 250 rue Saint-Jacques

The building located at 250 rue Saint Jacques was built at the request of Joseph-Achille Le Bel. This illustrious French chemist was a precursor of modern stereochemistry with Jacobus Henricus van’t Hoff, as evidenced by his thesis “On the relations which exist between the atomic formulas of organic bodies and the rotary power of their solutions” published in 1874 in the Bulletin of the Chemical Society. During the construction of the building, Le Bel had a small personal apartment and laboratories built there to work freely. He lived at 250 rue Saint Jacques from 1903 until his death in 1930. Le Bel bequeaths the mansion to the Chemical Society of France, responsible for maintaining the laboratories that were installed there. The laboratories located at 250 rue Saint Jacques closed after the Second World War. The building was redeveloped from 1965. The Société Chimique de France set up its administrative services there in 1966. The headquarters of the learned society has since been established at 250 rue Saint Jacques in Paris.

This painting exhibited at the Headquarters of the Chemical Society of France, 250 rue Saint-Jacques in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, is a memorial painting. This work represents Henri Sainte Claire Deville, during a chemistry lesson on aluminum compounds that he gave in 1878 at the Sorbonne.

Single and without an heir, Le Bel was strongly involved in the Society: president in 1892, member of the board from 1899 to 1901 then from 1907 to 1909, member of the Bulletin printing committee in January 1894, member of the Finance and drafting committees in November 1894, budget rapporteur. In 1952, the Société Chimique de France created a prestigious prize in homage to the illustrious chemist, the Grand Prix: Joseph-Achille Le Bel to reward internationally recognized work within the framework of the activities of the SCF.