Chemical celebrities

    What do Prozac, nylon and DDT have in common? Chemists say they are three of the top ten most important molecules of the 20th century. From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens reports.

    What do Prozac, nylon and DDT have in common? Chemists say they are three of the top ten most important molecules of the 20th century. From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens reports.

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    At the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, a giant suspended model of the molecule buckminsterfullerene hangs overhead. Affectionately referred to as a buckyball, it joins penicillin, aspirin, and others in the Foundation’s “Molecules that Matter” exhibit. Peter Lederman, who is on the board of directors, says buckyballs were crucial in furthering the emerging field of nanotechnology.

    Lederman: The strongest thing before that was the diamond. Buckyballs, you can put things into them, you can make the nanotubes. So they added a new dimension.

    A committee decided on the top ten molecules based on their roles in science, society, and art. Communications director Shelley Wilks Geehr points to three large sculptures of malformed baby mice in the middle of the exhibit. The real mice they’re based on are genetically engineered for research.

    Geehr: The statues of the mice are a comment on DNA and the manipulation of DNA.

    The exhibit opens this month — a grand opening of the larger museum at the foundation opens in october. Kerry Grens, WHYY news.

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