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White Plains Chemist Edith Flanigen Honored With Award By State Senate

Edith Flanigen, left, was honored by State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others Wednesday.
Edith Flanigen, left, was honored by State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and others Wednesday. Photo Credit: Senator Stewart-Cousins' Office

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - With a Senate resolution Wednesday, State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic Leader, honored Edith Flanigen by recognizing the White Plains resident as one of eight recipients of the nation’s highest honor in science, the National Medal of Science and Technology.

The now retired 86-year-old commercial chemist previously developed a way to refine petroleum that has streamlined global gasoline production. Her work also has led to advancements in water purification and environmental remediation, with President Barack Obama citing her for her role in helping decontaminate radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan after the 2011 earthquake.

“I was truly honored to be recognized by Senator Stewart-Cousins and others who spoke on the resolution, and all those who stood and applauded - I was overwhelmed by the response in the Senate chamber. It was a joyful experience,” said Flanigen, according to a press release.

Born in Buffalo in 1929, Flanigen credits a nun at her Catholic high school with encouraging her to study chemistry at a time when most girls did not. She graduated from D’Youville College then received her master’s degree from Syracuse University. In 1952, she began her 42-year career at Union Carbide in Buffalo, moving on to Universal Oil Products, now known as Honeywell, in Tarrytown. She retired in 2004 but continued as a consultant.

Flanigen also has received numerous other awards, including the Perkin Medal, becoming the first female recipient of what is considered to be the highest honor in commercial chemistry, according to a press release. Additionally, she also has 109 U.S. patents and has invented more than 200 different synthetic materials, according to a press release.

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