Papers of John H. Wotiz
Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
John H. Wotiz (1919-2001) was a Czech organic chemist and science historian. Wotiz was born in Ostrova, Czechoslovakia (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1919. He began his higher education at the Technical University of Prague studying chemical engineering, but the increasing likelihood of invasion by Germany, then under the rule of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party led his family to send John and his brother to the United States.
A scholarship from the International Student Service organization allowed Wotiz to enroll at Furman University. Upon receiving his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Furman (1941), he attended the University of Richmond and received his M.S. in 1943. During World War II, while working toward a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, Wotiz enlisted in the Chemical Warfare Service of the United States Army, where he served as a lieutenant.
After the war, Wotiz resumed his studies at Ohio State and was granted his Ph.D. in 1948. He then accepted a position as an instructor of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, where he remained until 1957, rising to the position of associate professor. Taking leave of the academic world, Wotiz accepted a position with Diamond Alkali Company in 1958. He was a successful researcher and was awarded numerous patents as both a group leader and then senior group leader at Diamond Alkali.
But the academic world still exerted a pull upon Wotiz. In 1962, he took a position as a professor of chemistry at Marshall University, where he later became department chairman. Wotiz left Marshall in 1967 to accept a professor of chemistry position at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU-C). He spent the remainder of his career at SIU-C, working with graduate students, conducting research on allene chemistry, and helping to establish an international graduate student program.
While at SIU-C, Wotiz's growing interest in the historical origins of chemistry led to his increased involvement in the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division on the History of Chemistry (HIST). He also participated in a successful European Summer Studies program, which involved guided tours of sites important to the evolution of the chemical science. By 1980, he was a recognized authority on museums and cultural sites dedicated to this topic and was chairman of HIST. As chairman of HIST, he was an early supporter of the establishment of a Center for the History of Chemistry (CHOC) in the United States. Partially for his work on behalf of CHOC (later renamed the Chemical Heritage Foundation), he was awarded HIST's Dexter Award in 1982.
In 1984, Wotiz and one of his graduate students, Susanna Rudofsky, ignited a fierce controversy when they suggested that the nineteenth-century German chemist August Kekule may have misrepresented the facts behind his conception of the ring-structure of benzene. The remainder of Wotiz's career and even his retirement years were consumed by the Kekule controversy. He chaired a contentious symposium on Kekule sponsored by HIST in Boston in 1990. Wotiz also edited the book The Kekule Riddle: A Challenge for Chemists and Psychologists, which was published in 1993.
The politics of the symposium and the publication of The Kekule Riddle resulted in lawsuits involving both individual scholars and the HIST Division as a whole. In the end, the affair seems to have been less about who deserved credit for the discovery of the ring structure and more about whether the history of chemistry should be written by historians-with-a-chemistry-background or by chemists-turned-historians.
John Wotiz and his wife Kay were both fatally injured in an auto accident in 2001.
Oral History of John H. Wotiz, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. - https://oh.sciencehistory.org/oral-histories/wotiz-john-h
Papers of John H. Wotiz, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Papers of John H. Wotiz contain the personal and professional papers of Czech organic chemist and science historian John H. Wotiz. The collection offers a fairly comprehensive overview of Wotiz's career. His work with the ACS Division on the History of Chemistry (HIST) and the ACS Speakers Service is also well-documented. The collection is arranged into the following nine series:
- Wotiz As Chemist
- Materials Relevant to The History of Chemistry
- The Kekule Project
- History of Chemistry Tours
- Wotiz In The ACS - Lectures & Governance
- Personal Files
- Posthumous Papers of John Wotiz
- Miscellaneous Reprints
The Papers of John H. Wotiz were donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical History Foundation) by Herbert T. Pratt in 2006.
The Papers of John H. Wotiz were processed by Andrew Mangravite in 2010.
- American Chemical Society. Division of the History of Chemistry
- Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry
- Center for History of Chemistry (U.S.)
- Chemistry, Organic
- Historians of science
- Molecular structure
- Science museums
- Science History Institute Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid created by Andrew Mangravite and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.
- Use Restrictions
The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Papers of John H. Wotiz. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.
This series contains materials documenting John H. Wotiz's professional career as an organic chemist in the academic sphere and with Diamond Alkali Company. The contents of this series are arranged into the following three sub-series:
- Chem Course Lecture Notes
- Patents & Published Scientific Articles
Arranged in its original order, this sub-series contains John H. Wotiz's biographical files. Wotiz's University of Richmond master's thesis, his Ohio State University Ph.D. thesis, and four laboratory notebooks are found in this sub-series. A variety of other miscellaneous materials, including correspondence, curricula vitae, brochures, article reprints, and patents are preserved here as well.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains John H. Wotiz's chemistry course lecture "notes". The "notes" in this sub-series are in the form of overhead slides, which Wotiz used for the chemistry courses he taught at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
This sub-series contains a single file concerning John H. Wotiz's patent for polyhydroxyamino compounds. It also contains an incomplete set of articles authored and co-authored by Wotiz that were published in scientific journals. The sole patent file is placed at the beginning of the sub-series. The article files are arranged numerically according to a numbering scheme devised by Wotiz.
NOTE – A handful of empty files labelled "Empty File" are present in this sub-series. These files are kept here because they were determined to be an integral part of the sub-series. It is believed that these files formerly contained materials that are now missing.
During the later portion of his career, John H. Wotiz became increasingly interested in the history of chemistry. This series contains files documenting his historical research activities and his teaching of the history of chemistry. The contents of this series are arranged into the following six sub-series:
- Oral Histories
- "History of Chemistry" Lecture Slides
- Science Museums
- "Story Behind the Story" Pieces
- Center for the History of Chemistry (CHOC)
- Historical Figures - Research Files & Dexter Award Files
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this sub-series contains John H. Wotiz's oral histories files. It consists of correspondence files documenting the institution of the American Chemical Society Division on the History of Chemistry Oral Histories Program as it related to the ACS' various divisions.
Correspondence makes up the bulk of the materials in this sub-series. A small amount of accompanying materials, including an interview summary, interview notes, and a list of publications are also preserved here. (See also Box 8 Folder 2-3.)
Arranged in its original order, this sub-series contains John H. Wotiz's "History of Chemistry" lecture slide files. The materials in these files were used by Wotiz in his History of Chemistry classes, which he taught at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
The contents of these files consist mainly of overhead lecture slides. Small amounts of a variety of accompanying materials, including, but not limited to, reprints, correspondence, a periodical, and speaker lists, are found in these files as well.
John H. Wotiz's intense interest in the history of chemistry led him to extensively tour chemistry and science museums throughout the world. This resulted in him publishing a directory of them.
Arranged in its original order (with most of the files arranged alphabetically by country), this sub-series contains Wotiz's chemistry and science museum files. These files contain materials collected in his travels and some original materials used in the preparation of his museum directory.
The contents of these files consist of a variety of materials, including, but not limited to, article reprints, correspondence, manuscripts, galley sheets, and questionnaires.
"The Story Behind the Story" was a series of articles on the history of chemistry edited by John H. Wotiz for the Journal of Chemical Education.
Arranged chronologically by date, this sub-series contains Wotiz's "Story Behind the Story" files. The contents of these files consist mainly of "Story Behind the Story" articles edited by Wotiz and published in the Journal of Chemical Education between 1975 and 1982. The run of "Story Behind the Story" articles is incomplete after June 1979. A single file containing reprints of articles written by Wotiz and others is preserved in this sub-series as well.
See also Box 7 Folder 43.
While serving as president of the American Chemical Society Division on the History of Chemistry, John H. Wotiz was involved in the early planning of a proposed museum devoted to the history of chemistry. This eventually evolved into the Center for the History of Chemistry (CHOC), which was founded in 1982. CHOC was renamed the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in 1992. In 2015, the CHF merged with the Life Sciences Foundation and was renamed the Science History Institute.
Arranged in its original order, this sub-series contains Wotiz's files pertaining to the Center for the History of Chemistry. These files document his involvement in the planning and establishment of CHOC. The contents of the files in this sub-series consist mainly of correspondence. A variety of other miscellaneous materials, including, but not limited to, clippings, article reprints, galley sheets, and an oral history transcript are found here as well.
See also Box 3 Folder 1-11.
See also Box 3 Folder 1-11.
This sub-series contains a combination of research files and Dexter Awards files created and maintained by John H. Wotiz. The Research Files consist of four files concerning subjects that were of scholarly interest to Wotiz. The Dexter Award Files consist of four files pertaining to the American Chemical Society Division on the History of Chemistry's Dexter Award. Wotiz was the recipient of this award in 1982.
The contents of the files in this sub-series consist of a variety of materials, including, but not limited to, correspondence, article reprints, news clippings, and an article typescript.
Arranged in its original order, this series contains John H. Wotiz files regarding nineteenth century German organic chemist August Kekule. They provide documentation of Wotiz's research on Kekule and the ensuing controversy that it caused. Files documenting the Kekule 100th Anniversary Symposium chaired by Wotiz at the 1990 American Chemical Society Spring Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts are also present in this series. Files documenting the production and publication of The Kekule Riddle: A Challenge for Chemists and Psychologists, which was edited by Wotiz, are also preserved here.
The contents of the Kekule Project files consist of a variety of materials. Correspondence, manuscripts, and article reprints are the most common materials found in this series. Noticeable amounts of articles, photocopies of historical documents, overhead slides, and notes are also preserved in this series. A variety of other miscellaneous materials, including, but not limited to, papers, abstracts, legal documents, audio tapes, and two videotapes are present here as well.
The Wotiz/Rudofsky articles are numbered 2 through 5.
For drafts see Box 11 Folder 27.
John H. Wotiz's knowledge of European chemistry and science history sites led to his conducting a series of guided tours. He initially did so as for-credit summer sessions under the auspices of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He later guided tours as private for-profit ventures conducted through Histours Travel, Incorporated, a company he founded.
Arranged chronologically by year, this series contains Wotiz's history of chemistry tour files. These files document his guided tours of European chemistry and science history sites, which he conducted under the auspices of SIU-C and Histours Travel, Incorporated. The contents of these files consist of a variety of materials, including, but not limited to, correspondence, newsletters, participant lists, itineraries, student papers, financial documents, and legal documents.
This series contains files documenting John H. Wotiz's activities with the American Chemical Society. The contents of this series are arranged into the following two sub-series:
- ACS Lectures
Arranged alphabetically by year, this sub-series contains files regarding lectures presented by John H. Wotiz under the auspices of the American Chemical Society's Speaker Service, of which he was an active participant. A majority of the lectures represented in these files were presented at ACS functions. A significant number of lectures presented by Wotiz at non-ACS functions in the United States and abroad are also documented here.
Correspondence makes up the bulk of the materials found in this sub-series. Smaller, but noticeable, amounts of abstracts, programs, program books, and itineraries are also preserved in these files. A variety of other miscellaneous materials, including, but not limited to, financial documents, notes, newsletters, and overhead slides are present here as well.
Arranged alphabetically by year, this sub-series contains eleven files documenting John H. Wotiz's involvement in the governance of the American Chemical Society. The contents of these files consist of a variety of materials, including, but not limited to, correspondence, financial documents, and miscellaneous meeting materials.
Arranged alphabetically by subject, this series contains correspondence files designated as "personal" by John H Wotiz himself. Correspondence makes up the bulk of materials in this series. A small amount of accompanying materials, including article reprints, are preserved in these files as well.
Arranged in their original order, this series contains John H. Wotiz papers that were collected and organized by Herbert T. Pratt, who was also responsible for donating the collection to the Chemical Heritage Foundation. These files chiefly concern Wotiz's lawsuits and the writing of his oral history.
The contents of these files consist mainly of correspondence. A variety of other materials, including, but not limited to, e-mails, oral history drafts, and reprints are preserved in this series as well.
This series contains two types of printed materials collected by John H. Wotiz: reprints of articles on chemists and the history of chemistry and publications by various museums dedicated to the history of chemistry.
This series contains slides and photographs taken during John H. Wotiz's tours of European chemistry and science museums and used in his classes and lecture tours.
Note – Item level cataloging may be available, consult Image Archives.