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Mary Virginia Orna

kate1dc
Contributor II
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Orna_Mary.jpgSister Mary Virginia Orna, O.S.U. (Order of Saint Ursula) is professor of chemistry at the College of New Rochelle and Editor-at-Large, Chemical Heritage magazine. She has lectured and published widely in the areas of color chemistry and archaeological chemistry. She is active in several divisions of the American Chemical Society, having served as chair of the History and Chemical Education Divisions. She is a recipient of the following major awards: the 1984 CMA Catalyst Award for excellence in college chemistry teaching, the 1989 New York State Professor of the Year and National Gold Medalist, the 1989 Merck Innovation Award, the 1996 ACS Visiting Scientist Award, the 1996 James Flack Norris Award, the 1999 ACS George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, and the 2001 New England Association of Chemistry Teachers J. A. Timm Award for excellence in chemistry teaching. She is presently president of ChemSource,Inc., a major effort in chemistry teacher preparation and enhancement funded by the National Science Foundation. She was a Fulbright Fellow in Israel (1994-95), where she lectured at The Hebrew University, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Shenkar College of Textile Technology, 2008 Henry Hill Award, and 2009 ACS Volunteer Service Award.

Topics

Analytical Chemistry Contributions to Art and Art History

The methods of modern chemistry can be used as probes to examine the provenance and to aid in the conservation of art objects and artifacts. In addition, these methods can help enormously in clarifying the techniques by which these objects were made, in determining their content, and in dating their origins. A variety of methods will be illustrated in the examination of such materials as medieval stained glass, Middle Eastern obsidian and pottery, and 20th century art forgeries. Although such methods can give great insight into the objects in question, there are limits to such technology; these limitations will also be discussed.

Doing Chemistry at the Art/Archaeology Interface

The archaeological chemical rewards of spending a sabbatical year in Israel and Italy will be discussed along with modern methods used to examine both ancient and modern artifacts. The archaeological work in Israel involved analysis of ancient pigments and dyes found on excavated materials from caves in the Judean desert and the ancient fortress of Masada. Textiles from the "Cave of the Warrior" were examined from their pigment content. The work in Italy involved examination of medieval artists' manuals for recipes for blue pigments, which were then carried out and characterized, with some surprising results. Additional applications of the methods of archaeological chemistry to such famous artifacts as the forgeries of Han van Meegeran and the Shroud of Turin will be discussed, including some evidence that the radiocarbon date of the shroud may not be valid because of fire damage it experienced by the Shroud in 1532. Pros and cons will be discussed.

Our Chemical Heritage: Its Impact on Our Daily Lives

Few of us take the time to look into the past to see how our lives have been impacted by decisions and policies made long ago or even very recently. In the case of our chemical heritage, often the decision to pursue a particular line of research can have tremendous consequences on the quality of our lives. Some examples from our recent past include the pathways to cancer chemotherapy, research into the chemical origins and cure of prostate disease and the scourge of river blindness. This talk will document these and other advances in chemical research that have had a profound impact on our search for a rational, healthy future, which is the great gift of modern scientific research.

The Shroud of Turin and Other Mysteries: Uncovering Traces of the Past through Science

Applications of the methods of archaeological chemistry can help scientists and non scientists alike to appreciate our recent and ancient past. Chemistry in particular is an aid to (1) understanding the techniques used to create artifacts and works of art; (2) gain knowledge of the provenance, or origins, of the work; and (3) providing evidence that can support or "de-authenticate" the claims to authenticity of such famous artifacts as the Shroud of Turin. This talk will examine stained glass techniques, uses of atomic absorption on ancient pottery, analysis of ancient lead, and the radiocarbon dating of ancient linen in the case of the Shroud of Turin, which is said by many to be the winding sheet of Christ. In the latter case, the present theories regarding the Shroud will be discussed including some evidence that the radiocarbon date of the shroud may not be valid because of fire damage experienced in 1532. Pro and cons will be discussed.

Women Chemists in the National Inventors' Hall of Fame

The National Inventors' Hall of Fame celebrates the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of great inventors by showcasing exhibits and presentations that allow visitors to experience the excitement of discovery, creativity and imagination. Founded in 1972 and located in Akron, Ohio, USA, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to the individuals who conceived the great technological advances which the USA fosters through its patent system. Each year a Selection Committee composed of representatives from national scientific and technical organizations votes to select the most qualified inventors from those nominated for the current year. To date, only 13 women of the more than 375 inventors thus honored are members of the Hall of Fame, and of these 13, seven are chemists. This talk will highlight the extraordinary contributions these women have made to our health and well-being through such inventions as chemotherapeutic agents, Kevlar, Scotchgard, and easy self-diagnosis for diabetes.

Fashion, Pharmaceuticals, Food, and Fun: The Chemical History of Color

Color has been an exciting and enjoyable part of human life ever since the color-sensitive eye evolved over a million years ago. However, the junction between color and chemistry, and color and history, is of more recent origin. The first recorded use of chemistry to manufacture a color is the stunning set of cave paintings found in the Grotte Chauvet in Southern France. Executed over 32,000 years ago (20,000 years earlier than Lascaux!), they are a testimony to early humans’ ability to create beauty and to engage in abstract thinking. This talk traces the history of color usage as a chemical endeavor from the earliest records to the present day focusing on four major areas: fashion, pharmaceuticals, food, and fun. It is a trajectory peppered with stories to help us understand the mystery of color as a universal experience and phenomenon; its chemical history, as you shall see, is no less so. This talk is based on her recent book, “The Chemical History of Color” (Springer, 2013).

Found and Lost: Incredible Tales of Spurious, Erroneous, and Rehabilitated Elements

Fascinating as the Periodic Table and its tenants are, this talk will highlight equally fascinating tales of failed candidates that never made it into the Periodic Table. Before Mendeleev, confusion regarding just what and how many elements there were reigned supreme – and continued to do so well into the 20th century due to conceptual, absurd, and even ridiculous errors. Some of these wrong turns were the results of experimental errors of the grossest sort, whereas others arose from incompetence, scientific fraud, unorthodox beliefs, misplaced nationalism, and just plain obstinacy. These tales of folly, human ambition….and ingenuity give us a unique understanding of how chemistry really works. This talk is based on her recent book co-authored with Marco Fontani and Mariagrazia Costa, “The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side” (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Historic Mineral Pigments: Colorful Benchmarks of Ancient Civilizations

Our ancient forebears certainly made use of pigments to color virtually everything they used or had: bodies, caves, pottery, sculpture, stone structures, tombs, clothing, and other textiles. This talk will focus on their use of mineral pigments and will include stories of how the ancients expanded the naturally occurring palette by chemical transformation. The fascinating reconstruction of Egyptian blue’s recipe, lost since the early Middle Ages, and the exciting discovery of the ancient use of nanotechnology will be highlighted.

Five Thousand Years of Chemistry: Uncovering the Secrets of Ancient & Medieval Artisans through Chemistry

This talk consists of a discussion of how modern chemical methods can be used to examine both ancient and medieval artifacts. Archaeological work in Israel involved analysis of ancient pigments and dyes found on excavated materials from caves in the Judean desert and the ancient fortress of Masada. Pigments in medieval manuscripts formed the basis of further work on colorants. In addition, medieval artists' manuals were examined for recipes for blue pigments which were then carried out and characterized with some surprising results.

Chemical Detective Work: Contributions to Art and Art History

The methods of modern chemistry can be used as probes to examine the provenance and to aid in the conservation of art objects and artifacts. In addition, these methods can help enormously in clarifying the techniques by which these objects were made, in determining their content, and in dating their origins. A variety of methods will be illustrated in the examination of such materials as medieval stained glass, Middle Eastern obsidian and pottery, and 20th century art forgeries. Although such methods can give great insight into the objects in question, there are limits to such technology; these limitations will also be discussed.

Contact

39 Willow Drive

New Rochelle, NY 10805

Email: maryvirginiaorna@gmail.com

Home: 914-310-0351

Business: 914-654-5302

Fax: 914-654-5387

Cell: 914-310-0351

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