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About the Arsenic: Arsenic minerals such as realgar and orpiment were known to our ancestors and used by their healers. Technological progress and hatred of the enemy led to the first occupational exposure to arsenic. Bronze Age smiths forged crude yet superior weapons while unintentionally poisoning themselves with their new smelters. Albertus Magnus succeeded in isolating elemental arsenic in 1250 AD and Arsenic’s suitability and efficiency as a poison led to its medieval nicknames, “king of poisons” and “inheritance powder”. Arsenic will be described at the intersection of many pivotal moments in human history and as critical to the beginning of scientific disciplines including forensics, toxicology, organic chemistry and the research driven pharmaceutical industry. There are legacy risks resulting from our long experience with arsenic such as arsenical pesticides that were historically loaded onto agricultural fields. Current challenges include the revelation of geological arsenic in Bangladesh and an on-going mass-poisoning from elevated arsenic in their drinking water.
Biography: Michael Fricke, Ph.D. is an analytical development chemist at Olon Ricerca Bioscience based in Concord, Ohio and was the analytical lead for the development of Molnupiravir, the first approved oral treatment for COVID-19. Dr. Fricke is an expert on elemental impurities which developed from his graduate study of arsenic. This arsenic research led to an appointment as an Oak Ridge Post-Doctoral Fellow and then as a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia and culminated in the discovery, synthesis and isolation of dimethylthioarsinic acid (DMTA). DMTA is the most cytotoxic human metabolite known for arsenic and is critical to a developing understanding of the toxic effects associated with low-level chronic arsenic exposure. Dr Fricke is a Councilor for the Akron Section of the American Chemical Society and is a member of the ACS Committee for Chemists with Disabilities. As part of this committee role, Dr Fricke is employing his woodworking hobby to develop a braille periodic table for visually impaired chemists and students to be unveiled at the Spring 2024 ACS meeting in New Orleans. A previous combination of art and science was inspired by the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Dr Fricke’s quasicrystal patio was well received by Northeast Ohio scientific societies and was featured in the trade journal Chemical and Engineering News.