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UNT Professor Emeritus Honored with International Chemistry Award

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DENTON, Texas — University of North Texas College of Science Emeritus Professor James Marshall, alongside his late wife Virginia “Jenny” Marshall, has received the prestigious HIST Award from the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry. Their project, “Rediscovery of the Chemical Elements,” spanned over a dozen years and has now earned international acclaim.

Beginning as a novel honeymoon idea inspired by Mary Elvira Weeks’ book “The Discovery of the Elements,” the Marshalls embarked on a global journey to visit the original discovery sites of the periodic table’s elements. Their travels took them through 28 countries, where they not only traced the scientific landmarks but also tackled challenges akin to detective work in uncovering some of the less obvious locations.

Their explorations led to a series of detailed articles initially published in The Hexagon, the official journal of the chemical fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma, capturing the rich history and stories behind each element. The project culminated in an extensive online archive, hosted by UNT’s Department of Chemistry, featuring over 5,000 photographs and a wealth of information about the elements.

The couple also collected samples of each safely containable natural element, creating a “living periodic table,” part of which is now on permanent display in the UNT Chemistry building.

Dean John Quintanilla of the College of Science expressed his pride in the recognition of the Marshalls’ contributions, emphasizing the project as a labor of love and a testament to the couple’s dedication to making science accessible and engaging.

James Marshall is set to formally receive the award this fall at a symposium in honor of the couple’s work, where he will also deliver an award address. Reflecting on the project’s success, Marshall credited his late wife Jenny as the driving force behind their achievements, highlighting her role as not just a partner but a visionary in their shared journey.

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