Jay Alfred Young, In Memoriam

By John W. Moore

Jay Young, a great teacher of chemistry, former Secretary-Councilor of the Division of Chemical Education, one of the founders of the discipline of chemical health and safety, and a contributor to the Journal of Chemical Education during a period of 60 years, died in his sleep on Thursday, October 13, 2011. Jay had celebrated his 91st birthday on September 8, 2011.

After a stint in the military during World War II, a B.S. degree from Indiana University, an A.M. from Oberlin College, and a Ph.D. from Notre Dame, Jay began his teaching career at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Characteristically, his first publication in the Journal (in 1949) had an undergraduate student as primary author; it described “A Simple Oscillating Stirrer” (Grelecki, C.J.; Young, Jay A. J. Chem. Educ. 1949 26(12), 666). Norris Rakestraw, the Journal’s third editor, accepted that paper. Jay continued publishing in the Journal under four more editors—his last publication appearing in 2009. Jay taught at Florida State University, Carleton University (Ottawa), and Auburn University, where he was Hudson Professor of Chemistry.

In addition to teaching and publishing, Jay Young served chemical education in a variety of ways. In the 1960s he participated in the Commission on College Chemistry (also known as the Advisory Council on College Chemistry, AC3), which developed curricula, wrote resource papers, created model laboratory experiments, and produced publications designed to improve the teaching of chemistry. In 1959, Jay wrote a study guide to accompany a video chemistry course in NBC TV’s Continental Classroom series. (Yes, network television had educational programming back then!) Perhaps his most important publication, and certainly the one he was proudest of, was Practice in Thinking, a discovery-oriented laboratory manual that went through 13 editions from 1958 to 1974. At my request a couple of years ago, Jay made this book available for publication on the Web through the Chemical Education Digital Library (http://www.chemeddl.org/collections/LivTexts/index.php).

In 1971 Jay Young received the College Chemistry Teacher Award from the Manufacturing Chemists Association (which became the Chemical Manufacturers Association and is now the American Chemistry Council). He also has received the Notre Dame Centennial of Science Award for Significant Contribution to the Improvement of Teaching of Chemistry. When Jay was awarded a Division of Chemical Education service award in 2007, he recounted in the Fall DivCHED Newsletter how his division service began, “As best as I can recall, I started with the Division (in the late 50s) by attending the open meetings of the Education Committee, which was chaired by Ed Fuller (Beloit College). Ed asked me to become a committee member. While on the committee, I think I surprised Ed because every time he asked me to do some task or other, I carried out my assignment rather promptly.” That’s a good model for all of us.

In 1969 Jay Young was elected Secretary of the Division of Chemical Education and Secretary of the Board of Publication of the Journal of Chemical Education. He served in that capacity for nine years until he was succeeded by Jerry Bell in 1978. During Jay’s tenure the Secretary also served as Program Chair for the division, so it was a doubly time-consuming duty. Many of us who have been active in the Division for a long time well remember Jay’s pleasure when reports and other duties were discharged on time—and his displeasure when they were not!
By the mid 1970s Jay Young’s interests were turning to chemical health and safety. He joined the Chemical Manufacturers Association as Manager of Technical Publications and soon thereafter became an independent consultant on chemical safety. In this capacity Jay testified in a variety of court cases regarding chemical hazards and safety, and he wrote several books in the field. An example is Improving Safety in the Chemical Laboratory: A Practical Guide, published by Wiley in 1987.

Jay Young’s last professional work – a remembrance of the early days of the ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety, which he helped to found – will be presented in a memorial session to him at the San Diego National ACS meeting next March.

Throughout his career Jay Young remained a teacher. Whether educating a judge or jury on chemical hazards, working with elementary schoolchildren to enable them to learn chemistry, or describing for chemistry teachers the hazards of substances they were likely to use in their laboratories, Jay served his profession with diligence and zeal. As a result of his series of Chemical Laboratory Information Profiles, Jay probably holds the record for the greatest number of publications in the Journal of Chemical Education: 280. When I last heard from him he was working on another book—at the age of 89!

In a career profile printed in 2007 in the Journal (J. Chem. Educ. 2007 84 (10), 1572-3.), Jay said his father had taught him that, “[W]hen you are given a task to perform, do so, and be sure when you are finished that no one else would have done it better. (Not because you are more competent than anyone else, but because you simply want to serve to the best of your ability.)” In the same profile Jay said that the world does not need more people like the ones it has (specifically, more people like himself), but I think he was mistaken—more people like Jay Young could only serve to improve the world. Jay is and will be sorely missed.

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