The Theodore William Richards Award for Excellence in Teaching Secondary School Chemistry is intended to honor a teacher in the Northeastern Section who, through innovation and dedication, has inspired potential chemists, has communicated chemistry to non-chemists, or has influenced other teachers of chemistry.
Call For Nominations deadline for the 2022 Richards award is Saturday, May 1, 2022. Please fill out the nomination form and send to Steve Lantos (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the May 1st deadline. The selected teacher will be officially honored and will receive both a $1,500 prize and a Certificate of Recognition.
Anyone, including a prospective awardee, may make a nomination. Colleagues, department heads, principals, students, and former students are urged to consider the criteria upon which the Section will base its selection and to submit the name of a deserving individual.
The criteria for excellence correspond broadly to the effectiveness with which the teacher conveys the principles of chemistry to students and to the influence that the teacher has had on students and on other teachers.
The teacher’s effectiveness could be a direct result of innovative and exciting techniques used to help students comprehend and remember chemical concepts and descriptive material. It could be a result of the special effort and dedication that characterizes his or her interaction with students, both academic and extra-curricular. It could also be a result of a particular skill in communicating, especially to students not intending to become chemists, the role chemistry plays in their lives and in society.
The influence of the teacher could be reflected in the way he or she inspires the students or promotes the better teaching of chemistry among other teachers. The influence might have led to students choosing chemistry as a career or might have prompted students to choose an appropriate scientific specialty. It might also have led to other teachers learning to use, through workshops or written material, successful new approaches taken by the nominee to demonstrate laboratory experiments or to solve chemical problems.
The measure of such effectiveness and influence could be reflected in the achievements of his or her students or of students of other teachers who have learned from him or her. It is assumed that many students fortunate enough to have learned chemistry from this teacher could win awards of their own and would go on to become chemists. Such students might have placed high in the Chemistry Olympiad, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, the Avery Ashdown High School Examination, science fairs, etc. These achievements might very well be more significant than the basic abilities of the student would suggest.
Who was Theodore William Richards?
These short remarks are intended to put into context the extraordinary person, Theodore William Richards, whom we in the Northeastern Section honor with the Theodore William Richards Medal Award.
Theodore William Richards was the first American to receive a Nobel prize in chemistry and just the second American scientist to do so – Michaelson was the first. Richards won for his careful determination of the atomic weight of 25 elements including those used as a primary standard from which other weights were determined. His careful work showed that the mass of Co was correct – opening the way for arranging the table not by mass but by atomic number – laying the groundwork for the efforts of Henry Moseley.
Richards students went on to determine the mass of another 33 elements – Remarkably about half the periodic table due to the direct or indirect efforts of a single person. It is for this weighty contribution that he won the 1914 Noble Prize in chemistry.
Richards was born in 1868 – so was just one year old at the time of the Karlsruhe conference that is widely recognized as the birth of the periodic table. It can be said that the table and Richards grew up together. He was the son of a painter and a poet. He was home schooled, receiving his first chemistry set at the age of 12. He quickly blossomed and entered Haverford College at 14 – not as a Freshman – but as a Sophomore. In 1886, at the age of 18, he received a second Bachelor’s degree – summa cum laude – from Harvard. At the age of 20, he received his PhD also from Harvard for showing that the H/O weight ratio in water is 2:15.869 – well below the 2:16 expected. This paved the way for understanding of isotopes, the issue involved in cobalt’s placement in the table.
After a stint in Europe, he returned to Harvard and rose through the ranks from instructor to full professor.
He was also recognized with:
• the Davy Medal (1910) from Royal Society of London
• The Faraday Lectureship Prize (1911) from Royal Society of London
• The Willard Gibbs Award (1912) from the Chicago Section
• The Franklin Medal (1916) by the Franklin Institute
The Northeastern Section established the Theodore Richards Medal Award in 1928 – first it awarded in 1932 – posthumously to Richards. That makes this the 90th annaversary of the award.
The award is conferred no more often than every two years; today’s award is the 46th award. It has only been won once before by a woman.
Past winners include many who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including:
- G. N. Lewis
- Linus Pauling
- Robert Mulliken
- E. B. Wilson
- Ronald Breslow
- Rudy Markus
Written by Mary Jane Shultz
2022 Theodore William Richards Medal selection committee
Alan D. Crosby, Newton South High School
Leah Gordon, Weston High School
David Baumitter, Acton Boxborough High School
Janice Compton, Lexington High School
Jay Chandler, Wayland High School
Judith Denise Ashworth, Manchester Memorial High School
Robert Kern, Nobles and Greenough School
Shawn Kenner, Sharon High School
Ann Lambert, King Philip Regional High School
Ann Wolf, Plymouth South High School
Kathleen Markiewicz, Boston Latin School
Paul Kumar, Lexington High School
John Mauch, Franklin High School
James Fabiano, Newmarket (NH) Jr.-Sr. High School
Gary Sypteras, Minuteman Regional H.S., Lexington, MA
Arthur Giovannangeli, Jr., Contoocook Valley Regional H.S., Peterborough, NH
Cathleen Little, Pinkerton Academy, NH
Stephen Lantos, Brookline High School, MA
Gary Liptak, Laconia High School, NH
Valerie J. Lechtanski, Hopkinton High School, MA
Coretta Tam, Newton Country Day School
Ralph Sherwood, Chelmsford High School
James Miller, Bishop Brady High School
Anne Woodward, Somersworth (NH) H.S.
Judith Scott Masselam, Lexington (MA) H.S.
W. Cary Kilner, Somersworth (NH) H.S.
Linda A. Schleicher, Oliver Ames High School
Laurel Nunes, Taunton High School
Timothy H. Reed
Barbara A. Hopkins
Reen D. Gibb
Wallace J. Gleekman
D. Montgomery Wells
Catherine F. Kreuger
David J. Olney
Ann Marie Ladetto
Laura Wick Hallowell
Jacqueline M. Arendt
Shirley J. Klepadlo
Richard Y. Coombs
James E. Johnson