The traditional source of fine chemicals
Germany dried up with American entry into the First World
War. As a result, the Chemistry Department at the University of Illinois
established an organic chemical manufacturing unit, initially under the
direction of Professor Clarence Derick. Originally it was a summer project
for producing chemicals for classroom use, but Roger
Adams turned it into a program for producing organic chemicals for
war and industrial use as well.
Marvel, a graduate student at the time, spent most of 1917 and 1918
working on the project, and graduate students continued the tradition
over summers as a way to earn money. While some synthetic organic chemicals
had been produced in the United States before the war, the chemists at
Illinois filled an important gap that arose when the German source of
fine chemicals disappeared. The work at Illinois led to the establishment
of Eastman Organic Chemicals.
In the process of making the organic chemicals, Illinois chemists tested
and perfected the directions for their syntheses. These recipes were incorporated
into a series of volumes giving carefully checked recipes for the synthesis
of organic compounds. The publication, Organic Syntheses, founded
by Roger Adams continues to the present day.