The College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering (CCME) of Peking University is the oldest of its kind in China. Its history could be traced to the Chemistry Division of the Imperial University of Peking, founded in 1910, which was subsequently reorganized into the Department of Chemistry of Peking University in 1919. By then, the Department had offered 21 courses that covered a wide range of topics in chemistry. Many of its faculty members had PhD degrees from Europe and the US, and they initiated English courses and research programs. The Department enjoyed its first golden time until 1937, when the Japanese invasion in World War II interrupted its development. During the war years, Peking University migrated to the southwestern city of Kunming in Yunnan Province, where it temporarily merged with Tsinghua University and Nankai University into National Southwestern Associated University. Despite shortage of resources, faculty and students in the Department of Chemistry strived to maintain basic activities of education and research. After the war ended, the Department moved back with Peking University to Beijing in 1946.
In 1952, the Department of Chemistry was reorganized to include counterparts from two other leading institutions in China: Yenching University and Tsinghua University. This expansion has greatly strengthened the Department, whose faculty members then included many founding fathers of modern chemistry in China: Cheng’e Sun, Qiyi Xing, Guangxian Xu, Xiaoxia Gao, Ziqing Huang, Qinglian Zhang, Renyin Yan, Xinde Feng, Youqi Tang, Pang Zhang, Qihe Zhu. For instance, Qiyi Xing’s team made an important contribution to the world’s first case of complete synthesis of crystalline bovine insulin in 1965, which received the First-class Prize of the National Natural Science Award in 1982. Qinglian Zhang accurately measured the relative atomic weight of 10 elements, which was recognized as the new standard by the International Commission on Atomic Weights in the 1990s. Youqi Tang discovered the spontaneous monolayer dispersion principle in the late 1970s, which was successfully applied to fabricate high-performance industrial adsorbents in 1980~1990s, and have been employed to establish the largest air separation factory in the world in 2007 in southern China.
The Department of Chemistry was renamed as the College of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering (CCME) in 1994. Currently, CCME comprises five academic departments, five research institutes, one experimental chemistry center, and one analytical instrumentation center. Meanwhile, CCME is the host of a number of first-class research platforms including one national laboratory, two state key laboratories, two Ministry of Education (MOE) key laboratories, one national defense key laboratory, and three interdisciplinary centers of PKU.
Over the past century, CCME has educated and trained over 16,000 chemists. Among them are the Vice President of IUPAC, Members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Director of the Chinese National Sciences Foundation, Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Presidents of many Universities in China, and other leaders in education, research, chemical industries, as well as in business sectors in the world. Our alumni are the Awardees of numerous significant prizes, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers of the US, the Supreme Prize of National Science and Technology of China. CCME is now gearing up to spur the development of chemical education and research in both China and the world.