Evaluating the Name Reactions in Chemistry Mark as Favorite (2 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in History, Unlocked Resources. Last updated July 09, 2021.


In this activity, students will discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion in chemistry by exploring name reactions in organic chemistry. Students will engage in preliminary reflection, then listen to the podcast, Should organic chemistry’s name reactions go the way of the mouth pipet? from C&EN, and then share their perspective on a discussion board.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Think critically about how names were/are assigned to laws (or similar) in chemistry.
  • Consider how diversity, equity, and inclusion are talked about in professional settings.
  • Communicate their perspective through a discussion post using examples from the podcast along with their personal thoughts.

Chemistry Topics

This activity supports students’ understanding of:

  • Chemical History
  • Careers in Chemistry
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


Teacher Preparation: 45 minutes
Lesson: 30 minutes


Teacher Notes

  • In order to prepare for this activity, the teacher should listen to the podcast, Should organic chemistry’s name reactions go the way of the mouth pipet? ahead of time to get an idea of how they would like to lead the discussion or what questions they would like students to consider.
  • The podcast focuses on name reactions in organic chemistry, but the perspectives still apply in other fields of chemistry. Reminding students of laws or constants attached to people that they have learned in class is helpful scaffolding before they listen to the podcast.  
  • If you are uncomfortable leading discussion in class, you could modify the activity by asking students to complete the initial reflection on paper and not sharing out to the class. However, I found that even asking students to share their initial thoughts without responding back to them was an enjoyable experience.

For the Student


In chemistry class this year we have talked about many laws, reactions, processes, models, and equations that are named after prominent scientists in the field. These examples range from the beginnings of chemistry to today: Bohr’s model of the atom, Millikan’s oil drop experiment, Dalton’s atomic theory, Boyle’s law, Charles’ law, Avogadro’s number, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle, the list goes on.

Why are these laws named after these particular scientists? Who decides on which person’s name is chosen? Is using the name helpful or harmful to the field of chemistry? Is it exclusionary or unwelcoming to some? You have the opportunity to explore these questions through this assignment.

In-class Discussion

Take out a piece of paper and jot down your thoughts about the following question: 

  • Do you think that the names of chemists should be used to label reactions, laws, theories, etc.? Why or why not?

On Your Own

Listen to episode 32 of the podcast, Stereo Chemistry: “Should organic chemistry’s name reactions go the way of the mouth pipet?” You can listen online or go for a walk outside and listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Many of the names that are discussed are from organic chemistry topics, but the same thoughts apply to the ones we have learned. Use these questions to organize what you learn.

  • What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of naming that the chemists in the podcast share?
  • Take note of who decides how things are named. Is that process okay?

Respond to the Following Questions on the Discussion Board

  • Should chemistry continue to name discoveries after people, or should there be a different convention used?
  • Explain why you chose a specific perspective and reference information from the podcast to support your response.
  • If you think there should be a new naming convention, what would you suggest?
  • What should happen to all the names that are widely used and recognized?
  • Did your perspective change after hearing the perspectives in the podcast?

Note: The purpose of this assignment is to get you to think critically about how naming might impact a sense of inclusion in the field of chemistry. When writing, focus more on getting your ideas out there rather than getting the wording or writing perfectly. Also, feel free to engage with your classmates’ posts by challenging their ideas and/or asking questions.