Noyes historical labThe Department of Chemistry has been part of the University of Illinois since the university's beginning in 1868. By 1893, a four-year BS degree program in Chemistry had been established, and the first PhD in Chemistry was awarded in 1903. By the 1920s, the department was one of the largest in the United States in terms of facilities, faculty, and degrees granted. By the end of the twentieth century, more than 3,400 doctoral degrees had been awarded, making the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois the premier PhD-producing chemistry program in the United States.

The School of Chemical Sciences counts 11 Nobel Prize winners among its faculty, graduates and postdoctoral fellows. Notable accomplishments by members of the department over the past 150 years include the following.

  • Discovery of the amino acid Threonine (William Rose, JBC bio)

  • Discovery of the artificial sweetener sodium cyclamate (Louis Audrieth and Michael Sveda)

  • Discovery of improved platinum catalysts for catalytic hydrogenation (Roger Adams)

  • Development of electron transfer theory (Rudy Marcus)

  • Development of high resolution microwave techniques to study molecular bonding (Willis Flygare)

  • Isolation of the first well-characterized cytochrome P450 and discovery of lipoic acid and pyridoxal phosphate (I. C. Gunsalus)

  • Development of high-pressure and fluorescence spectroscopy to study protein structures (Gregorio Weber)

  • Development of NMR spectroscopy as a tool for structural analysis (Herbert Gutowsky)

  • First observation of NMR spin coupling (Herbert Gutowsky)

  • Invention of an improved calorimeter for measuring the energy content of coal (Samuel Parr)

  • Identification and synthesis of the polypeptide hormones oxytocin and vasopressin (Vincent du Vigneaud)

  • Invention of the aerosol whipped cream product Instantwhip
    (G. Frederick Smith)

  • Pioneering work in polymer synthesis (Carl "Speed" Marvel)

  • Pioneering work in coordination chemistry (John Bailar, Jr.)

  • Founding of Chemical Abstracts (William Noyes) and Organic Syntheses (Roger Adams)

  • Invention of magnetic resonance imaging (Paul Lauterbur)