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Chemical Reaction: Looking Back on 10 Years

By: Steve Herman
Posted: August 5, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” —Enrique Jardiel Poncela

August 1998. The price of a gallon of gasoline was $1.50 in today’s dollars. Roger Maris still held the single season home run record, which would fall to Mark McGwire on September 8. The Euro, REACH and Katrina where years into the future. In GCI magazine, the first “Chemical Reaction” was published. Well, not exactly.

GCI magazine was then DCI (Drug & Cosmetic Industry). The magazine was owned by Advanstar, not Allured, and the column was called “Kosmetikos,” a perhaps slightly too clever name replaced in January 2001. The introduction of this column was made possible by the retirement of Robert Goldemberg. To loosely paraphrase Brahms: “It is no joke to write a symphony after Beethoven.”

Bob had written a column titled “Compounder’s Corner” for 23 years. He was part of a great generation of chemists that included the likes of Henry Maso, Marty Rieger, Charlie Fox, Bernie Idson and Graham Barker. They and their colleagues took cosmetics from the kitchen to the lab and made it a science. They taught and wrote and spoke at meetings. Bob had a very successful consulting company and was a co-founder of what evolved into the SCC continuing education program.

Two people were instrumental in the birth of “Chemical Reaction.” Peter Dichter, who wrote a marketing piece called “Peter’s Principles,” knew of the opportunity created by Bob’s retirement and arranged an interview with Nancy Jeffries, then the editor of DCI and now a contributing editor for GCI magazine. I already had a few publications under my belt, including one for DCI. That plus teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University and being former chairman of the NYSCC, probably enhanced what in urban vernacular is referred to as my “street cred.” Nancy gave me a chance to write a three-column trial, and no one told me to stop.