The archives of the Serbian Chemical Society were burnt in the bombing of Belgrade in 1941. But a great number of important documents concerning the history of the Society were preserved and later collected from members or Sections and Affiliates, so that, based on them, important events in the life and work of the Society, for the first fifty years, could be described after all. The reader will probably feel that the history of the Society of that time shows some blanks and that some of the descriptions are based on unreliable conclusions which are not supported by a satisfactory number of documents. The period of the next fifty years does not have such faults.
Hundred years ago, on November 15th according to the Julian calendar, that is, on November 27th according to the Gregorian calendar, 1897, in the old building of the State Chemical Laboratory (today the building of the Institute of Chemistry, Technology and Metallurgy in Njegoševa Street) in Belgrade, eleven Belgrade chemists gathered together. On the previous day, November 14th, 1897 according to the Julian calendar, that is, November 26th according to the Gregorian calendar, they all received summons from the professor of the Velika Škola (later the University) and director of the State Chemical Laboratory, Dr. Marko T. Leko so that, as was written by his own hand in the mentioned summons, “they could raise the question of founding the Serbian Chemical Society“.
The immediate cause for this gathering, as can be seen from this note, was a letter sent to Prof. Leko by “The Main Committee of the III International Congress of Applied Chemistry which was to take place in Vienna in July 1898.” In this letter it was suggested that a board should also be organized for Serbia with the task to incite among, colleagues as great an attendance at the Congress as possible.
At this gathering, as can be seen from the minutes written by Dr. Marko Nikolic, “The preliminary meeting of The Serbian Chemical Society,” beside the summoner Dr. Marko T. Leko and the mentioned recorder Dr. Marko V. Nikolic, the following persons were present:
Dr. Marko T. Leko
Prof. of the Velika Skola and Director of the State Chemical Lab
Dr. Dobrosav M. Knez-Milojkovic
State Chemist in Belgrade
Dr. Aleksandar K. Zega
Chemist of the Municipality of Belgrade
Jovan N. Bademlic
Chemist, Principal of the II Male High School in Belgrade
Dr. Milorad Z. Jovicic
High School Teacher in Belgrade
Vojislav R. Prljevic
Chemist at the Laboratory of the Mining Department in Belgrade
Radomir S. Majstorovic
Chemist of the State Chemical Laboratory
Dr. Luka Panic
Employed at the Pharmaceutical Warehouse in Belgrade
Dr. Marko Nikolic
Manager of the Chemical Laboratory of the Belgrade Custom
Dr. Josif Sodomski
Chemist at the Commission of State Monopolies
Dr. Sima Lozanic*
Professor of the Velika Skola and Minister of Economy
Dr. Kosta M. Jovanovic
Управник Рударске лабораторији Министарства народне привреде
*Summons were also sent to theSima Lozanic Professor of the Velika Skola and Minister of Economy who, at the time was away, so he could not attend the meeting.
At that “preliminary meeting”, Marko Leko conveyed to the attendees the request of the Central Committee of the III International Congress of Applied Chemistry “to have in Belgrade a committee formed for Serbia whose task would be to insist upon the great possible response to the Congress and to prepare papers for it.”
At the same time, M. Leko raised the question of founding a society of Serbian chemists. After the first question had been discussed for a longer time, it was principally decided “that one should accept the invitation of the Central International Committee in Vienna,” and it was agreed “that they should inform the Central International Committee of having communicated it to the Society of Serbian Chemists and the Society would take up the role of the Committee for Serbia, communicating all activities to the Central International Committee.”
Аfter a long discussion, it was decided to found an association of Serbian chemists, and only chemists, not a “chemical-physical-mineralogical society as they had tried to do some time before.” Also, a principle decision was made, among others, “to begin working without any statutes, or officials (except secretary), to fix the day of society meetings and to have the second preliminary meeting take place on December 4th, 1897.”
At the second meeting, everybody agreed upon the following tasks of the Chemical Society:
- mutual informing in all areas of chemistry;
- reporting about innovations in chemistry and following modern developments in science;
- reading original papers from all areas of chemistry;
- solving all practical chemical problems;
- the application of chemical knowledge to the greatest extent in all fields of the national economy;
- solving problems concerning the teaching of chemistry at our schools and
- regulating the position of Serbian chemists.
As can be seen, the Serbian Chemical Society in the very beginning took up very voluminous and serious tasks which involved dealing with all questions in the field of chemistry in our country. It is characteristic of the Society that it started to work immediately without any formalities, even without defining any official rules or naming the President of the Society, which could be seen from the previously quoted decision from the first preliminary meeting of the Society to “start work at once without any statute or officials.”
That is how one of the oldest scientific societies in Serbia and Europe came into life, being the tenth oldest among the chemical societies of the world. In the year when it was founded three meetings were held, and in the following year, 1898, 11 meetings were held. In the course of the following years the Society showed very lively activity, so that by 1906, 60 meetings had been held. At Society meetings, regular minutes were kept which at first were published in Nastavnik (Teacher), a magazine of the Teachers’ Society.
Later on, these minutes ranging from the minutes of the 17th meeting held on March 27th, 1899 to that from the 60th meeting held on October 29th, 1906, were published as a special contribution to Prosvetni Glasnik (Journal of Education) under the title: The Minutes of the Serbian Chemical Society numbers 1 – 11, and printed in the State Printing House of the Kingdom of Serbia in Belgrade, so that they could be considered the first publication of the Serbian Chemical Society.