The History of SCI

SCI was established in 1881, by a prominent group of forward thinking Scientists, Inventors and Entrepreneurs with founder members going on to set up major businesses producing many of the daily products we recognise today.

Our history

History of SCI through the years

The importance of Chemistry

Chemistry is ubiquitous and underpinning.  Without chemistry, there would be no life.  Without chemistry, there would be no industry.  It is easy to confuse natural chemistry with synthetic chemistry, but they are the same thing.  Understanding chemistry and its uses is vital to enable us to exist without destroying the environment we depend on.   Many people use chemistry without realising it, and do not understand that the solutions to their problems are often chemical in nature.




SCI Founded



Journal of Chemical Technology and Bio-technology


1894 - 1902

SCI launches international branches



Co-founder of IUPAC



Launch of IChemE



C&I (Chemistry & Industry) Magazine launched



Launch of Fine Chemicals Group



Launch of Agrisciences Group and Journal of Science Food and Agriculture



Polymer International Journal



Pest Management Science Journal



Co-founder European Federation of Biotechnology



Launch of Materials Group



Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining Journal



Launch of Science and Enterprise Group



Launch of Food Group and Greenhouse Gases Journal



Launch of Environment Health and Safety Group



Energy, Science and Engineering Journal



Launch of Energy Group



Mentoring Scheme launched


SCI launches:

Chemistry Council Innovation Committee and Bright SCIdea Challenge



CC strategy published



CC Sector Deal

SCI: The Innovation Hub

Innovation is about applying the understanding of science to answer challenges. Whether it is to find ways to generate energy and food with producing carbon dioxide, to prevent the spread of disease – or measure its impact, to produce the electronic components on which our increasingly connected world depends, or any one of the myriad challenges facing us, it is likely that there is a strong component of chemistry in the solution. The Innovation Hub will help you understand your challenge, find the right science to answer it and the right partners to turn that answer into a practical solution.

Members who changed the world

Henry E Armstrong

Henry Armstrong's work was centred on chemistry education within engineering schools, and through it he came to be recognised as a founding father of chemical engineering. He played an important part in establishing the SCI Process Engineering Group.

Read his full biog

Sir George Beilby

George Beilby was SCI World President in 1898 and contributed greatly to SCI's growth in Scotland. A Beilby Memorial Fund to reward exceptional research was raised in his honour by subscription.

Read his full biog

Leslie Herbert Lampitt

Leslie Lampitt was a founder member of the Food Group, and the Lampitt Medal was initially funded by subscriptions from staff and suppliers to J Lyons and Co, to honour his contribution to SCI.

Read his full biog

Sir William Perkin

Sir William Perkin (1838-1907), created the world's first synthetic dye, mauveine, at the age of 18. The Perkin Medal, which commemorates him, is the highest honour given for outstanding applied chemistry in the US.

Read his full biog

1881 - 1902

1881 - SCI launched

1882 - Journal of Chemical Technology and Bio-technology

1894 - 1902 - SCI launches international branches

The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) was founded on 4 April 1881 at a London meeting presided over by the Society's first President, Sir Henry Roscoe, and a veritable ‘who’s who’ of influential scientists and industrialists of their day, including Ludwig Mond, Sir William Perkin, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell and the ‘father of chemical engineering’, George E Davis.

The Society was created chiefly to foster the meeting of and communication between professionals and companies in the chemical industries. At this first SCI meeting, it was decided, among other matters, that a journal should be started – the journal that would eventually become the Journal of Chemical Technology and Bio-technology – and that geographic sections should be formed to facilitate local meetings.

In 1894, the America Section of SCI (Now SCI America) was founded, followed by SCI Canada in 1902.

1919 – 1923

1919 – Co-founder of IUPAC

1922 – Launch of IChemE

1923 – C&I (Chemistry in Industry) launched

In 1919, SCI was involved in the foundation of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), the organisation responsible for standardisation of nomenclature in chemistry – most notably, the Periodic Table of Elements.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) began life as the Chemical Engineering Group of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1918, and in 1922 was formally incorporated in its own right. Likewise, the foundation of SCI’s Food Group in 1932 later led to the establishment of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST).

In 1923, SCI published the first edition of Chemistry & Industry (C&I), the members’ magazine that focused on important industrial developments, trade reports, correspondence and reviews of books. Almost a century later, C&I is still going strong, with 11 issues published annually, and is globally renowned as a leading publication in the chemistry-using industries.

1948 – 1969

1948 – Launch of Fine Chemicals Group

1950 – Launch of Agrisciences Group | Journal of Science Food and Agriculture

1969 – Polymer International Journal

In 1948, SCI launched the Fine Chemicals Group, which remains one of the largest Technical Interest Groups in SCI. The Group focuses on medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, process and development chemistry, colour chemistry, flavour and fragrance chemistry, and general organic chemistry, especially new and important aspects of synthetic chemistry.

Two years later, the Agrisciences Group was formed – another key Technical Interest

Group that remains highly active today. The Group plays an essential role in bringing together scientists and businesspeople to ensure the global agricultural sector can continue to innovate and operate in an increasingly sustainable way while catering to a growing global population.


1950 - Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture

1951 - Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechology

1955 - Society moved to Belgrave Square

The 1950s saw SCI grow its publishing interests, with the launch of the Journal of the Science of Food & Agriculture (1950) and the Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology (1951).

In 1955, SCI moved to its current headquarters in Belgrave Square, London. Owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with the rest of Belgravia, the building was and remains part of the Grosvenor Estate. It had recently been commandeered by the Ministry of Defence during World War II, and the former Nazi commander Rudolf Hess is believed to have been interrogated in the building after he fled to Britain late in the war.

1970 – 1990

1970 – Pest Management Science

1978 – Co-founder European Federation of Biotechnology

1990s – Launch of Young Chemists Panel | Chinese UK Group launched

The beginning of the 1970s saw the Society expand its publishing portfolio further, with the launch of Pest Management Science in 1970.

In 1978, SCI co-founded the European Federation of Biotechnology, and SCI’s Belgrave Square HQ served as the Federation’s UK Regional Branch Office for a number of years.

In 1990, SCI founded the integral Young Chemists’ Panel, and two years later the Chinese UK Group was formed – both of which have gone from strength to strength in the years since.

1995 – 2009

1995 – Launch of Materials Group

1999 – Launch of Australia International Group

2007 – Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining Journal

2009 – Launch of Science and Enterprise Group

SCI’s Materials Chemistry Group was launched in 1995, providing an essential forum for professionals and academics working in the design, production and science of materials – an area that has been at the core of innovation throughout history.

The Society’s global reach extended further in 1999 with the launch of the Australia International Group, which continues to work closely with the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI).

The 2000s saw the launch of the important Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining (Biofpr) journal, as well as SCI’s Science and Enterprise Group – the Society’s first Special Interest Group, tied neither to a specific regional nor technical area, instead focusing solely on accelerating innovation.

2011 – 2013

2011 – Greenhouse Gases Journal | Launch of Food Group
2012 – Launch of Environment Health and Safety Group
2013 – Energy, Science and Engineering Journal

In the early part of the 2010s, SCI launched two key Technical Interest Groups – the Food Group and the Environment, Health and Safety Group. The Society also added two new titles to its publishing portfolio – the Greenhouses Gases journal and Energy Science and Engineering.

2015 – 2017

2015 – Launch of Energy Group
2016 – Mentoring Scheme launched | Launch of Formulation Forum
2017 – Bright SCIdea Challenge launched | Chemistry Council Innovation Committee

In 2015, SCI launched the Energy Group, which addresses the ‘energy trilemma’ of sustainability, security of supply and affordability of energy. The following year, the Formulation Forum was initiated, providing links between numerous key players in the science and business of formulation science.

2016 also saw the foundation of SCI’s Mentoring Scheme, which pairs experienced senior professionals with early career scientists entering industry, helping to support their professional development.

SCI’s Bright SCIdea Challenge entrepreneurship competition was first run in 2017 to great success, and it has quickly become a key opportunity for students in the UK to develop their business acumen, with the added bonus of cash prizes for the winning team.

The Chemistry Council Innovation Committee was founded in 2017, facilitated chiefly by SCI, bringing government together with a consortium of high-level executives in the chemistry-using industries to collaborate on industry-wide strategy for the benefit of society.

2018 – today

2018 – CC Strategy Published
2019 – Launch of Mid-Careers Group CC Sector Deal
2019 - Launch of AI/Digitalisation Group

In 2018, the Chemistry Council published the Chemistry Council Strategy, which laid out an ambitious innovation plan for the UK chemistry-using industries to drive the sustainability agenda and increase sector turnover by 50% by 2030. This document led to the 2019 announcement of a £1bln Sector Deal for the industry, with £500m to be funded by UK government.

Most recently, SCI has launched the Mid-Careers Group – serving to support members in the important mid-to-senior level stage of their careers – and the AI and Digitalisation Group, which engages with the challenges and opportunities brought forwards by what has become widely known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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