Ronald Macfarlane was born in Buffalo, New York, the oldest of three children. An excellent teacher in high school sparked his interest in chemistry, and Macfarlane attended the University of Buffalo, majoring in analytical chemistry. He found coursework rather boring, but relished exciting summer jobs in chemical industries. Nuclear chemistry was just getting started, and Macfarlane entered Carnegie Institute of Technology for a PhD. In Truman Kohman’s lab, he researched natural radioactivity. He made a kind of giant Geiger counter, which he published to international praise. Next, he accepted a postdoctoral position at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working on alpha activity in rare earth elements. After accidentally creating a more efficient way to get ionized particles; he discovered new isotopes for years, saving his discoveries for later publication. Macfarlane accepted a job at McMaster University. There, he named his accidental creation the “helium jet recoil method” and began publishing data he’d stored up. He visited the Soviet Union, where he met John McIntyre, a physics professor at Texas A&M University. Months later, Arthur Martell, chairman of the new chemistry department at Texas A&M, called to recruit Macfarlane, and he took up a full professorship there. The Atomic Energy Commission funded Macfarlane’s nuclear work for a while but ceased after an incidental discovery during one of his nuclear chemistry experiments led to what became known as 252californium plasma desorption mass spectrometry. Macfarlane left the nuclear chemistry field to concentrate on mass spectrometry. He spent fifteen years developing the method that was the first to characterize the mass of large, fragile biomolecules—a method that quickly became well known and widely used to characterize a wide spectrum of biomolecules especially in the pharmacy and medicine fields. Early in the course of the discovery, he obtained National Institutes of Health funding to develop and expand the methodology. As one discovery led to another, his focus drilled down to another new field involving characterization of unusual lipids. He believed in “letting nature tell [a person] what is going on;” this approach has led to his interest in trying to determine who has cardiovascular disease and which components of his or her lipid profile contribute to the disease. One of the most important discoveries involved the characterization of an atherogenic type of the good cholesterol associated with APOC-1 (apolipoprotein C1), using both mass spectrometry and some of the novel platforms his lab developed to characterize lipoproteins. At the time of this interview, Macfarlane, age seventy-eight, was still unready to retire. Having thrown out the textbook in favor of his own “commentaries,” he continued to teach analytical chemistry his way, incorporating constructivism, conceptual learning, and other elements of educational psychology. Using blood samples from actual patients Macfarlane continued his work on cardiovascular disease. He believes that a person should contribute to the betterment of society, which he thinks he has done. His work, which has received nearly continuous funding, has straddled the boundary between applied and pure science, and he has always wished he could return to “real science.” Macfarlane concludes the interview by saying that his colleagues over the years have been supportive and gracious; most of his collaborations have worked equitably; he has tried to mentor his students while fostering their own creativity. Macfarlane’s advice to young scientists is to listen to nature and to pay attention to small details.
Kenneth Standing grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the oldest of four children. His father was an accountant, his mother a primary school teacher and housewife. Standing says he ended up in science by process of elimination, by gradually ruling out subjects he did not love. He won a senior scholarship to the University of Manitoba. World War II intervened, and he joined the University Naval Training Division (UNTD), which had him stoking and cleaning boilers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Shelburne, Ontario, for a year. For his PhD, Standing followed a friend to Princeton University’s physics department, where he worked on scintillation counting in Rubby Sherr’s nuclear physics lab and then on a fast-cycling cloud chamber with Milton White. Both experiments failed, but Standing’s two theses, one on double beta decay; and the other on proton-deuteron (p-d) reactions in nitrogen-14, got him his degree. As a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, Standing was one of the first to study gamma-ray scattering. He spent five years building a cyclotron for Manitoba, tried to help fix the one in Grenoble, France, and then returned to Manitoba to become director of the cyclotron there. A project analyzing protein in wheat for the Grain Research Laboratory, and the arrival of Brian Chait from University of Oxford, pushed Standing toward mass spectrometry. When Chait went to Rockefeller University, Werner Ens and Ronald Beavis became Standing’s first graduate students in mass spectrometry. All of his honors have been bestowed since he left nuclear physics, he says. Standing discusses his many collaborations, pointing out that he needed chemists to provide the raw materials for his work. He explains his collaboration with SCIEX on a hybrid mass spectrometer. He talks about developing and perpetuating the field of time-of-flight mass spec, citing as his most important contribution his 1981 publication of the design of his original time-of-flight mass spectrometer. He also believes that his work on collisional damping was seminal. He talks about his publication record and his patents. When his funding from the National Institutes of Health and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council came to an end, Standing retired, but he continues to provide analysis for other faculty members and good public relations for the University.
Alex G. Harrison was born in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, one of two sons. His parents were farmers but had the Scottish appreciation for education. Harrison attended a one-room school, where his aunt was teacher. He won a two-year scholarship to the University of Western Ontario and decided to study chemistry. Harrison completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees there. Next, he went to McMaster University for a PhD. He worked on thyroid function and thyroxine in Harry Thode’s lab, getting a much-cited publication. The sulfur cycle introduced him to mass spectrometry. His postdoctoral applications of his PhD work, still in Thode’s lab, garnered him two more publications. He did a second postdoc on free radical mass spectrometry with Fred Lossing at National Research Council (NRC). He married during this time, and he took up skiing at Paul Kebarle’s urging. Harrison’s first academic position was as lecturer at the University of Toronto, where he began research into ion molecule reactions. He earned tenure, taught, and became associate chair of the department. With funding from the NRC, Harrison was able to purchase a double-focusing mass spectrometer and set up a service lab. A chemical ionization (CI) mass spectrometer enabled him to analyze a broader array of compounds. Harrison became active in the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS), serving on the board of directors. He organized a regional lab at McMaster. When he received the Izaak Walton Killam Research Fellowship he was able to dedicate two years solely to research; he began working on negative ion chemistry and produced another much-cited publication. Reactive collisions and fast atom bombardment (FAB) and peptides and b ions have occupied him since. Taking early retirement, Harrison was able to keep his lab and continue to work on b ions. He still maintains collaborations with Talat Yalcin, Bela Paizs, and Benjamin Bythell, and is still publishing. Harrison discusses international contributions to the field of mass spectrometry. He feels that current mass spec work is perhaps too much focused on development, rather than research. He believes that having trained many good mass spectrometrists is one of his major contributions. He credits his mentors for giving him encouragement and the freedom to explore; and he also praises his wife. He describes his own mentoring style. He celebrates that there are more women in science, especially environmental science. He considers mass spectrometry less competitive than other fields, and more collegial and cooperative. Though the field is radically changed from his early days, he believes that mass spectrometry has much still to provide to science, that its future is neither predictable nor stagnant.
Paul Kebarle was born in Bulgaria, where his father was a business man and his mother a housewife. Kebarle escaped to Czechoslovakia, ostensibly for treatment for scoliosis, thence to Switzerland, where he studied nonstop to pass the entrance exam for ETH. At ETH he majored in chemical engineering. Kebarle then became a lab instructor at University of British Columbia, where he obtained his PhD in chemistry under Allen Bryce, studying mass spectrometry (MS). He taught himself MS by fixing an instrument made by the National Research Council (NRC); he had to learn glassblowing to plug leaks. He began with pyrolysis MS and built the more specific and comprehensive gas chromatography-mass spectroscope (GC-MS).
Two years of postdoctoral work with Fred Lossing at the NRC produced many publications, some amplifying his thesis on butene-1. Kebarle was next hired as professor at the University of Alberta, where he continued his high rate of important publications, until – he says – his work “disappears” because it has been internalized in the discipline of chemistry. He worked on electrospray MS, publishing with Udo Verkerk what he considers his most important paper. Mandatory retirement age pushed him into a smaller office, but a substantial grant has kept him working and publishing for many years. He and his wife maintain an active outdoor life, biking, walking, and skiing.
Kebarle talks about his family, former colleagues, and the impact of mass spectroscopy on biology. He “fell into” science and urges young people to try it and to work hard at it. He did not experience competition in his field. Kebarle believes that MS will continue to be useful, but that it will not provide the earth-shattering discoveries of the past.
Karl Kopecky added his notes on Kebarle. He explains that Kebarle worked in high-pressure MS, electrospray MS, and ionization MS. He claims that Kebarle’s work is so important that it forms the core of the subject in all standard chemistry textbooks. Kebarle’s work has implications for thermodynamics, computational chemistry, protein folding, and drug interactions. A humble man, Kebarle made nothing of his more than thirty articles that have been cited more than one hundred times.
Raymond March was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, one of two children. His father was an electrician and his mother a shop worker. March’s childhood was shaped by World War II, and by a mysterious polio-like paralysis which caused him to miss a great deal of school. He took an apprenticeship with PAMETRADA (Parsons and Marine Engineering Turbine Research and Development Association) Research Station, where he learned his way around a lab. He continued to attend school part time, and he passed his exams, gaining admittance to University of Leeds. There he majored in chemistry and was in the University Air Squadron, learning to fly de Havilland Chipmunks. He was intrigued by a visit from John Polanyi, but it was the change in national service requirements from two to three years (if one wished to fly) that provided the impetus to accept a scholarship to the University of Toronto, where he worked on flash photolysis with Polanyi. He returned briefly to England to marry; his wife became a teacher in Canada.
March developed a needle loop technique at Johnson and Johnson, then ran into Frederick Dainton with Polanyi and Harold Schiff at McGill University. He took a postdoc position in Schiff’s lab at McGill, where he worked on methyl metals and microwave discharges; on atmospheric chemistry; and on aluminum trimethyl and impact work for Gerald Bull, who built the supergun. Attempts by the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) to secede from Canada caused March to accept an assistant professorship at the brand-new Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. On a sabbatical in France March learned mass spectrometry and ion traps from Jean Durup and has continued to specialize in quadrupole mass spectrometers and to refine ion traps.
Becoming interested in flavonoids, March established the Trent University Water Quality Centre and added an interest in antibiotics. He talks about insect-induced metabolite changes and surfactants in blood; he developed an analysis of furans, PCBs, and dioxins for Varian Medical Systems; and he is collaborating on the problem of proteins and drugs and competition on proteins between drugs and contaminant molecules.
March discusses his contributions to the establishment of Trent University and his pride in Trent’s progress; his role on the editorial board of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry; and his ongoing argument with Joseph Loo, editor of Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). He also talks about his many friends and colleagues; his trips to Europe; funding; and his patents. March considers his most important publications to be his works on high mass resolution; on collisional migration, written with Durup and Ronald Bonner; and on competitive binding for drug molecules and contaminant molecules. He concludes with an encomium of the quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer on the Rosetta mission to characterize a comet.
Jean H. Futrell was born in Grant Parish, Louisiana. He grew up in a household that included his parents and two grandfathers. His father farmed and ran a small grocery store and gas station until the Depression, when he began work for the railroad; this job enabled Jean to travel on free passes. His mother, a housewife, liked to read; both parents encouraged education. Futrell was drafted shortly after entering Louisiana Tech University, where he majored in chemical engineering, so he quickly and retroactively joined the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). He spent summers working at Humble Oil and Refining Company, where he met Joe Franklin. Franklin urged Futrell to get a PhD in chemistry. Using his free railroad pass Futrell visited a number of colleges, finding University of California, Berkeley, to his liking. He worked on radiation chemistry in Glenn Seaborg’s lab, with Amos Newton as his supervisor. Luckily, he was able to postpone his Air Force service and could work at national labs for his summer weeks of service. He was introduced to spectrometry but was not interested at the time, relying instead on primitive gas chromatography. Futrell’s first job was at Humble again, where he was not permitted to work in mass spectrometry or ion chemistry, but had to stick with radiation chemistry. Nevertheless, he spent much time with Frederick Lampe, Frank Field, and occasionally Joe Franklin, and began experimenting on a discarded spectrometer. After eight months and with a number of publications to his credit, he finally had to complete his military obligation, and was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. There he had more freedom to do gas-phase chemistry and fell in love with mass spectrometry. He published more than twenty papers during his military time there and remained at Wright-Patterson as a civilian scientist. He adapted instruments when he could and made his own when he had to do so. Told that his funding would go further in academia he began to look around. Accepting the University of Utah’s offer, Futrell was tasked with building up the department and acquiring instruments. He worked with Marvin Vestal and William Johnston, having fun making ions. He continued to build his own versions of spectrometers and studying collision-induced dissociation with Anil Shukla. Futrell began working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, identifying toxins and testifying before the U.S. Congress. His foray into pyrolysis for National Science Foundation’s Flammability Research Center provided information for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Futrell left Utah for the chairmanship of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware, where it took him two years to get the department set up. He met and married Anne Krohn Graham, an artist. He became president of American Society for Mass Spectrometry and active in Council for Chemical Research. He resigned the chair to return to teaching and research and even began thinking about retirement. Using the Pimentel Report as a guide, which hoped to establish a national strategy for developing chemical sciences, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) recruited Futrell to be director of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), whose funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy and Battelle Corporation. In his three years as director, Futrell doubled their funding and increased the computer capacity by a factor of twenty-five. He also continued his own research and his own designing of spectrometers. Eventually Futrell retired (defined loosely), but he continues to be involved in federal agencies and committees of the National Academy of Sciences. He is still helping to develop a new, advanced FTICR for EMSL. Futrell considers the mass spectroscope the “ultimate chemical and physics lab.” In a next-day recap of his interview, Futrell discusses how he got interested in chemistry; the importance of communication; how much he loved to “help” others when they made mistakes; the confusion arising from his name’s spelling; women in science; mentoring; competition; creativity; changes in mass spec; the public perception of science; and information overload.
John L. Holmes was born in North London, United Kingdom, the son of a civil servant and a stay-at-home mother. From an early age, Holmes was encouraged to read, write and experiment. World War II disrupted his education, when the pupils of the Westcroft School were evacuated from London to the West Country, but by Christmas 1939 Holmes had returned to London to be with his parents. He remained in London for the duration of the war, and vividly recalls the London Blitz.
A mere ‘pass’ in chemistry on his Higher School examination meant that Holmes was bound for employment, rather than university. He accepted a position as a trainee analytical chemist at Glaxo Laboratories, where he learned to assay penicillin samples and to devise new analytical methods for novel synthetic products. While working at Glaxo, he pursued his education one day and three evenings per week at Acton Technical College, eventually passing the London External BSc examination in chemistry. His score earned him admission to graduate studies at University College London. There he studied thermal decomposition of alkyl iodides under the mentorship of Allan Maccoll.
After earning his PhD, Holmes fulfilled his National Service requirement at the National Coal Board then took up a postdoc in Ottawa at the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, doing photochemistry of trifluoromethyl radicals with aromatic substrates. It was at NRC that he met Fred Lossing and got his introduction to mass spectrometry. After a frustrating two-year interlude at the University of Edinburgh, Holmes returned to Ottawa, accepting a position as assistant professor in the Chemistry Department at the University of Ottawa, where (with the exception of sabbaticals and visiting professorships abroad) he spent the remainder of his career. He began his work at Ottawa on the kinetics of hydrogen atom reactions, but soon found himself volunteering to take on a leadership role in the department’s nascent center for mass spectrometry. Throughout the interview, Holmes recounts his evolving research interests, his collaborations with Fred Lossing, Hans Terlouw and others, his teaching and mentoring work, as well as the changing funding climate in Canada, the growth of the University of Ottawa, his experiences at international scientific meetings, and his work as editor of Organic Mass Spectrometry. Holmes concludes the interview with a discussion of his passion for sailing.
Marvin L. Vestal grew up in Pendleton, Indiana, one of two children. Vestal's father was a farmer and self-taught engineer whose father refused to allow him to attend high school. He encouraged Marvin and his brother to get an education, because they were "too damn lazy to work for [a living]." Marvin obtained both bachelor's and master's degrees in Engineering Sciences from Purdue University, taking a break after two years to volunteer for the draft; he was assigned to join the US Army Signal Corps. He finished his undergraduate degree and master's degree on the GI Bill, coming out of Purdue with no college debt. During college he worked part time at Johnston Laboratories, meeting there Henry Rosenstock and Merrill Wallenstein, who had studied at the University of Utah under Austin Wahrhaftig and Henry Eyring, and who developed the quasi-equilibrium theory (QET) of mass spectrometry (MS). Rosenstock left Johnston Laboratories, so Vestal continued the coincidence time-of-flight (TOF) project on which the two had been working; he also improved the machine with his invention of an electron multiplier. When Johnston Labs moved to Baltimore, Maryland, Vestal also moved. He began a physics PhD program at Johns Hopkins University but quit after two years to work full time at Johnston. He left that company to found Scientific Research Instrument Corporation (SRIC), with cofounders Gordon Fergusson, William Johnston (of Johnston Labs), and Bob Jones. The company licensed the new process chemical ionization (CI) from its inventors, Burnaby Munson and Frank Field, and Vestal was the first to commercialize it. Ever restless, Vestal decided that the academic world held appeal, so he went to the University of Utah for a PhD in chemical physics, studying under Wahrhaftig and Futrell. He published some papers along the way; he built a triple quadrupole MS for photodissociation. With Calvin Blakely he built a crossbeam MS for his dissertation. PhD in hand, Vestal accepted a position at the University of Houston, where he stayed for eleven years. During those years he invented and patented thermospray and started another company, Vestec, which did so well he had to leave the University to work at Vestec. The company commercialized MALDI/TOF instruments and sold "a bunch" all over the world. Vestec's merger with PerSeptive, led by Noubar Afeyan, eventually led to the merger with Applied Biosystems. Internal problems caused MALDI to be sold to ABSciex. Vestal retired from ABSciex but soon came out of retirement to found a new company. Virgin Instruments, working to find the theory for optimizing any MALDI, has produced instruments in sizes from desktop to two-story vertical. At AB Vestal and his coworkers were again first, this time to commercialize the revolutionizing delayed-extraction MALDI/TOF and then to develop the first commercial TOF/TOF. Vestal discusses his views of a number of things: sources of innovation; grants; biases of reviewers; increasing complexity of science; dearth of American graduate students; persistence of professional managers and wasteful meetings ("less talk and more do"); interesting people he has met through science; publishing; friendly competition; his wife's career; patents (he has at least fifty), licensing, and lawsuits; women in science, particularly MS; influences of Rosenstock, Wahrhaftig, and Futrell on his thinking; his influence on others; and the Distinguished Contribution to Mass Spectrometry award given him in 2010 by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). Vestal concludes his interview with a discussion of his newest company and his ideas for the future. He thinks biology is extremely important and has already driven a huge expansion of the field; he hopes his instruments will continue to drive research into biological applications. He talks about electrospray and MALDI's superiority, but thinks MALDI is reaching its limits. His company will have a new instrument within a year. His advice to young would-be scientists is to do science for love, not money. Thinking about his own career in science, he says he has always "followed [his] nose."
Keith R. Jennings begins his oral history discussing his youth in Sheffield, England. With parents supportive of his education, Jennings excelled, earning a spot at the prestigious King Edward VII Grammar School. Upon completing his examinations, Jennings applied to the University of Oxford where he was awarded the Hastings Scholarship to Queen’s College. While at Queen’s College, Jennings pursued his B.A. with Jack Wilfrid Linnett. After achieving First Class Honors distinction, Jennings continued his research with Linnett to complete an M.A. and D.Phil.
Following his time at the University of Oxford, Jennings conducted post-doctoral research with Robert J. Cevetanovic at the National Research Council in Ottawa, Canada. While Jennings worked with Cevetanovic he became more interested in the burgeoning research field of mass spectrometry. Returning to England after two years in Canada, Jennings began a post at the University of Sheffield, first as a Lecturer and then as a Reader. While at Sheffield, Jennings pursued research in the mass spectrometry of gas kinetics, fluorine compounds, and metastable transitions. He began building his own equipment and became involved in the emerging British mass spectrometry community.
Jennings discusses Ion Cyclotron Resonance research, time dependant ion fragmentation, and collision induced spectroscopy. After moving to the University of Warwick in 1972, Jennings continued his research on fluorinated compounds, metastables, and the fundamental research of gas phase ion chemistry. Additionally, he became interested in the biological aspects of science and began a mass spectrometry research program around peptides. While at Warwick, Jennings spent much time involved in department administration as the Chemistry department’s chair. Ultimately he moved into the Biological Sciences department to further pursue his collaboration with Howard Dalton.
Jennings spends much time talking about the development of the mass spectrometry community in Great Britain, especially the contributions of John Beynon and the historical shift when chemists became interested in mass spectrometry after World War II. Jennings also discusses mass spectrometry curricula and his own teaching experiences both in England and abroad. Throughout the interview, Jennings talks about his research, teaching, and personal collaborations with many prominent members of the mass spectrometry community including Michael T. Bowers, Jean Futrell, Michael Barber, and Martin Elliott.
James A. McCloskey, Jr. , grew up in San Antonio, Texas, an only child. His father, a doctor in the US Army Medical Corps, was the first regular army medical doctor killed in World War II, at which time James's name was changed from Robert. He attended public high school, where he was also in Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). It was always expected that he would attend college, and he entered Trinity University in San Antonio, where he majored in chemistry and continued in ROTC, paying his way with scholarships and with money he earned in summers. McCloskey realized that he would go nowhere with just a bachelor's degree, so he earned a PhD in analytical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He fulfilled his ROTC commitment by working for the US Army Chemical Corps; he published his first paper there. He also married while in the Army and fathered a daughter while still at MIT. He returned to Klaus Biemann's lab at MIT, where he began his lifelong interest in and study of nucleosides/nucleotides, necessitating different types of mass spectrometers. After finishing his PhD, McCloskey persuaded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to send him to Paris, France, for a year. He turned down the Karolinska Institutet for a job at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. At Baylor he continued his funding relationship with the NIH, getting a number of spectrometers for the College. He began a twenty-year collaboration with Susumu Nishimura in Tokyo, Japan, and made his first of many trips there. He learned the biology of tRNA; Pamela Crain began working for him; his lab discovered the nucleoside Q. He began his part of the search for the roots of the tree of life, which consists of bacteria, eukaryotes, and archaea. McCloskey spent six months of a sabbatical at the National Cancer Research Institute in Tokyo before going to the University of Utah as a visiting professor. He decided to accept a full professorship there, citing common interests, funding, and research freedom. Pamela Crain moved with him, continuing to collaborate on many papers. In addition to running his lab, heading the mass spec facility, and teaching, McCloskey became secretary, vice president, then president of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). He continued collaborating with mostly scientists outside the United States, especially from Japan; his work was primarily with ribonuclease T1 and T2; he studied how organisms modify in reaction to increase in temperature and found that they also modify below freezing. McCloskey talks about his grants, all of which were approved by NIH and which remained constant; the different types of spectrometers and their uses; collision-induced dissociation (CID); polarity; importance of mass accuracy; his funding and funding in general; Carl Woese and the tree of life; synthesis of a new molecule he named archaeosine or G+; closing down his grants and lab when he retired and moved back to Texas; changes in the field of chemistry, in mass spec, and in students. He explains his editorship of Methods in Enzymology and his collaboration or lack thereof with several scientists the interviewer asks about. He laughs over the Prochaska scam. He modestly claims that his contribution to mass spectrometry was "not that great," meaning that he answered difficult questions in a narrow area. He has retired completely but remains interested in the field of chemistry, marveling at its sudden and rapid expansion.
Fred W. McLafferty's oral history begins with a discussion of his family's history of education and his early life in Nebraska during the Great Depression. Sparked by a high school chemistry class, McLafferty decided to pursue the subject at the University of Nebraska. Because his undergraduate career coincided with World War II, McLafferty entered an accelerated degree program and enlisted in the war. After months of combat, he returned for graduate work at Nebraska, where he earned his Master's degree and published papers as an analytical chemist. After moving to Cornell University to pursue his doctorate degree, his interest shifted to organic chemistry and his work on organofluorine compounds began. In 1950, after completing his degree, McLafferty entered industry at the Dow Chemical Company in Michigan, where he was introduced to mass spectrometry. There, McLafferty and Roland Gohlke helped develop instrumentation and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. After several years, McLafferty was sent by Dow to Boston, Massachusetts to direct its new research lab. There he worked on patents and the McLafferty rearrangements in mass spectracorrelations and utilized time-of-flight. In his oral history, McLafferty speaks often of the community and meetings of mass spectrometrists, and how he has collaborated and interacted with this community in the past fifty years. In 1964 he left Dow for an academic position at Purdue University, where he created a new research program. He continued his collaboration with Gohlke and also started collaborating with Klaus Biemann on topics such as collisional activation and gas chromatography. While at Purdue, McLafferty consulted for companies like Dow and Hitachi, and began securing grant money for research. After four years at Purdue University, he became Peter J. W. Debye Professor of Chemistry at Cornell University. McLafferty discusses his longtime position at Cornell University, which has allowed him both to publish landmark works and to develop techniques like electron capture dissociation and top down proteomics, and his most recent research work, which has included published papers on the use of ammonium tartrate and succinate in electrospray solution. McLafferty concludes his interview by discussing his impressions and remembrances of his long list of peers.
Burnaby Munson hails from Wharton, Texas, a small town on the Texas Gulf coast and near the largest Frasch sulfur mine in the country. His father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather all were lawyers; his mother was the librarian at the high school. Both parents and his paternal grandfather were graduates of the University of Texas, and it was assumed that Burnaby would also go to college. He entered Tarleton State College in central Texas and transferred to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. The origin of his love of chemistry was unknown, but physical chemistry was his favorite subject. He studied the reactions of acetylene while in Robbin Anderson's lab. Munson continued at Texas for a master's degree, still in Anderson's lab. He spent a very cold year at the University of Wisconsin, working in John Margrave's lab, researching (ironically) high-temperature inorganic chemistry. He retreated to warm Texas, to Anderson's lab, to finish his PhD. Munson's first job was with Humble Oil in Baytown, Texas, where he worked on solution thermodynamics, extracting paraffins from aromatics. Humble was collegial, and training continued with a lecture series organized by Joe Franklin, who was a good friend and mentor to Munson. Franklin's small group of high-profile scientists developed the field of ion chemistry in mass spectrometry (MS). At that time, MS was a field limited by the large size and great expense of the instruments, but it was crammed with ground-breaking scientists, many of whom Munson discusses in the interview. Munson published what he regards as his most significant paper while at Humble. He also obtained his one patent, which was later sold to Scientific Research Incorporated. Joe Franklin left Humble for Rice University, and the ion chemistry group began to break up. Frank Field took his high-pressure instrument to New Jersey; Frederick Lampe went to Pennsylvania State University; and Munson took a position at the University of Delaware, where he has remained ever since, advancing to full professor with a named chair and many honors. Munson was recruited to use Delaware's two instruments, an old time of flight (TOF) and a new CEC 21-110. He had always wanted to teach, especially undergraduates; he has taught freshman chemistry every year, and he helped establish and served as Director of the University Honors Program at Delaware. He comments that teaching has become more difficult over the years because of safety regulations, legal concerns, and paperwork. Furthermore, grants are more difficult to get. He says the universities support overhead, not research; government supports development, not research. As a replacement for Joe Franklin and Frank Field, Munson attended his first American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) meeting, which he says was "a plum." He has since attended most of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) meetings, which subsumed ASTM, and he was president of the Society. Munson answers the interviewer's questions about other important mass spectrometrists he has worked with; about how MS and ASMS have changed over the years; and about the growing influence of biological applications in MS. Munson concludes the interview with his regret over being easily tired and therefore not able to travel to ASMS meetings or to visit friends. He mentions his internal debate about retirement locations: Delaware, where his life has been for forty-five years, or Texas, where he would not have to "shovel heat."
Catherine Fenselau grew up in York, Nebraska, one of two daughters. Her mother was a violinist and a holder of master's degrees who taught at York College, thus continuing a long family tradition of educated women. Catherine's father was a businessman in York. Always interested in science, first archaeology and ultimately chemistry, she attended Bryn Mawr College. The chairman of the chemistry department, Ernst Berliner, became the first of her three mentors. Fenselau received her PhD in organic chemistry from Stanford University, working in the lab of Carl Djerassi, who became her second mentor. Using mass spectrometry for organic research was new, so she felt she was more easily able to overcome any gender bias; her thesis was on the mechanisms of fragmentation. While in graduate school she met and married Allen Fenselau. When she went to Berkeley for her post doc, she entered Calvin Melvin's huge lab, working directly with Alma Burlingame and actually using a mass spectrometer for the first time. This instrument was the CEC 21-110, with electron ionization. She was funded by the American Association of University Women and later the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for whom she analyzed surrogate moon rocks. Her husband accepted a position at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Fenselau also took a position there. At Hopkins she was able to study a broad range of biomedical problems, not just drugs, and her research shifted its direction more toward biochemistry, where she now feels she has ended up. Her third mentor, Paul Talalay, helped her buy her first spectrometer, the CEC 21-110 with photo plates, the machine she used for bacterial analysis and for research into anti-cancer treatments, studying drugs such as cyclophosphamide, about which she wrote one of her most-cited papers with oncologist Michael Colvin. Fenselau accepted the chairmanship of the chemistry department at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in part because she wanted to do more teaching. With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) she established a regional mass spectrometry center there and acquired several types of instruments, including a JEOL four-sector machine and eventually a MALDI Fourier transform mass spectrometer. Here she began her work analyzing whole proteins, publishing papers about using mass spectrometry to map protein topography and about HIV Gag proteins. Taking her MALDI instrument with her, Fenselau moved to University of Maryland, College Park, for a two-year stint as chairman of the chemistry department and completing her transformation into a biochemist. She was involved in the study of anthrax—Amerithrax—promoting the rapid detection and characterization of bacteria with mass spectrometry and she established the US Human Proteomics Organization (USHUPO), becoming its first president. She continues to teach and to conduct research in proteomics and bioinformatics. Throughout her interview Fenselau discusses fellow scientists, their contributions to mass spectrometry, and their career paths. And she talks about various mass spectrometers and their pros and cons; she says that analytical chemistry continues to be scorned, though many scientists do it, and that it prevails in the state schools. The interview concludes with her thoughts about her graduate students and her patents, emphasizing the importance of publishing, as well as her experiences in American Society for Mass Spectrometry.
Seymour Meyerson was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and attended the University of Chicago from which he received his undergraduate degree. Unsure of what he wanted to pursue as a career, Meyerson decided to take additional courses in a variety of disciplines from the University of Chicago, as well as from George Williams College, which he attended for one year. After a brief time in a Chicago laboratory, he began working as a civilian inspector for the US military. By 1943 Meyerson began active service with the US military, spending the majority of his time with the Signal Corps; he also performed important work as the technical liaison officer between the Manhattan District and Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Though he had studied chemistry as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Meyerson's wartime work removed him from a laboratory setting for many years. His time with the military, however, afforded him the opportunity to be trained in electronics, to encounter his first mass spectrometer, although simply as a black box, and also to make important contacts with Standard Oil Company (Indiana). In 1946 Meyerson started what would become a nearly forty year career with Standard Oil Company (Indiana) (later the Amoco Corporation). From the outset, Meyerson was involved with the mass spectrometry group, first conducting quantitative gas analysis on gases and low-boiling liquids, consisting of hydrocarbons and fixed gases. His extensive career gave him the ability to witness the development of mass spectrometry at Standard Oil Company (Indiana) and the movement of his laboratory to newer buildings with more space and newer instrumentation, as well as the transition from human calculators to early analog computers. Much of Meyerson's research was conducted in collaboration with others in his company and in the larger mass spectrometry community. He and his colleagues were able to make advances in mass spectrometry techniques because Standard Oil Company (Indiana) supported basic research and there was a commitment of corporate management to the larger scientific community. Throughout his oral history Meyerson detailed the instrumentation with which he worked, mainly from Consolidated Engineering Corporation. Additionally, Meyerson discussed the early history of mass spectrometry as a discipline and as a community.
Alfred O. C. Nier was born in Minnesota in 1911 to parents who had emigrated from Germany. After a brief dispute over his name, Nier was baptized Alfred instead of Hans, since his mother believed Hans sounded too German. However, his two middle initials proved problematic during World War II when the government was researching publications by Alfred O. Nier and Alfred O. C. Nier for security clearances. Consequently, the majority of Nier's publications are without his second middle initial. Having been interested in radios during high school, Nier decided to study electrical engineering when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1927. When he graduated in 1931 he pursued engineering jobs; however, few firms were hiring due to the Depression. Luckily, during his undergraduate career Nier had been involved in physics research with his mechanics professor Henry A. Erikson. This physics experience led him to a research position and teaching assistantship with University of Minnesota professor Henry Hartig. Nier earned a master's degree in electrical engineering, though most of his research experience was in physics; he began his doctoral research at a time when quantum mechanics and x-rays were burgeoning fields of study. After much deliberation Nier chose to work with John Tate, head of the physics department and editor of the Physical Review. Subsequently, Tate assigned Nier to work on mass spectrometry. In the mid-1930s Nier built his first mass spectrometer and quickly obtained the first spectrum of benzene, though he never published it. Instead his first publication was in Review of Scientific Instruments in 1935 on feedback control for magnets. Nier spent the majority of his doctoral research obtaining a precise understanding of how mass spectrometers worked and how he could improve the instruments to enhance his isotopic abundance studies. It was in the area of isotopic abundance where Nier encountered his scientific hurdle: a nuclear physics controversy over the mass abundance of potassium-40. After completing his PhD in 1936, Nier was awarded a National Research Council Fellowship. He elected to work with Kenneth T. Bainbridge at Harvard University. After working for General Electric over the summer, Nier began his work on 180° mass spectrometers in the fall. Fortunately, Bainbridge, who had excellent funding despite the Depression, had been able to build a large electromagnet over the summer. By December Nier completed a mercury spectrum and, through stabilizing the power supply and maximizing the accelerating potential, was on his way to establishing more precise isotopic abundances than the ones F. W. Aston produced in 1915. While at Harvard, Nier was introduced to geochronology and geochemistry through studying the atomic weight of common lead and uranium-lead. Nier returned to the University of Minnesota after completing his postdoctoral research in 1938 instead of staying on as an instructor at Harvard or becoming a researcher at Westinghouse. Despite teaching a heavy course load Nier was able to begin building a magnet for his mass spectrometer and a thermal diffusion column to provide carbon-13 for stable isotope tracer studies. However, he had a diverse range of projects to complete on his 180° mass spectrometer with the help of students and his machinist R. B. Thorness. In the fall of 1939 Nier became involved in work related to uranium-235 and UF6/UBr4 (Nier refers to UF6 in the interview but references UBr4 in some publications). Nier, with E. T. Booth, J. R. Dunning, and A. V. Grosse, demonstrated conclusively via mass spectrometry that uranium-235 was the isotope that underwent slow neutron fission. As his research group at Minnesota was the only one capable of analyzing uranium he was ordered to begin separating uranium-235 on his 180° mass spectrometer. After Pearl Harbor and the official entry of the United States into World War II, Nier and his research team worked under the command of Harold C. Urey as part of the Manhattan Project. Nier's mass spectrometry expertise would prove invaluable to the war effort; Nier initially built four instruments for isotope analyses and ten instruments specifically for hydrogen-deuterium analyses. Nier taught many how to use and build these machines and allowed General Electric to produce his mass spectrometers. One such instrument that GE built was the Nier designed leak detector for the K-25 diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Nier worked with the Kellex Corporation to support gaseous diffusion processes to make line recorders, which were mass spectrometers monitoring the process stream. After World War II, Nier returned to the University of Minnesota where he remained as a professor. Nier's post-war mass spectrometry research touched on many areas including electrical detection, atmospheric studies and mass spectrometers for rockets, geochemistry, and precise masses. Nier participated in the upper atmosphere Aerobee flights throughout the 1960s, the Viking Project in the 1970s, and the Pioneer Venus project. During this atmospheric work Nier became friends and a collaborator with Klaus Biemann. Throughout his oral history Nier discusses his many publications, the instrument details of many mass spectrometers, his awards, and his interesting career. Nier explained that his short attention span and unique education in physics and electrical engineering allowed him to capitalize on the new field of mass spectrometry when the country needed his expertise most.
John H. Beynon was born in Ystalyfera, Wales, the older of two sons whose parents ended their education at secondary school. Beynon grew up in a coal mining town and attended a local university, the University of Wales at Swansea (Swansea University), during the early years of the Second World War. Graduating with a degree in physics, Beynon decided that the pursuit of a PhD was a waste of time and money and he committed himself fully to wartime work, including the development of weapons system used to track targets while a weapon was in motion. He spent much of his career in industry, principally working at the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), a British chemical company. Upon his arrival at ICI, Beynon's supervisor, A. J. Hailwood, immediately gave Beynon the task of building a mass spectrometer, a device with which he had no conceptual underpinnings. Creating this technology, however, proved to be pivotal in Beynon's career. Even without a PhD Beynon made himself and his work central to the development of mass spectrometry as a field of study and as a tool of chemical analysis and knowledge. Uncertain about remaining in industry his entire life, Beynon spent time at Purdue University, Swansea University, and the University of Essex. Being outside of industry allowed Beynon the opportunity to publish his research for the wider scientific community, ultimately contributing over 350 articles and other publications to the annals of science. He founded the Mass Spectrometry Unit at Swansea University, and was also a founding member of both the British Mass Spectrometry Society and the American Society of Mass Spectrometry. All through his long career Beynon trained a number of students (one of whom is Gareth Brenton; Brenton's reflections on his mentor are recorded in the appendix to this transcript) and did much to advance the field of mass spectroscopy. The interview concludes with Beynon's reflections on the politics surrounding the formation of an international mass spectroscopy committee. Throughout the interview Beynon details many of the scientific discoveries that came of out mass spec research, as well as a number of the refinements and improvements to mass spec technology.
Franz Hillenkamp was born in Essen, Germany, one of four children. The family, except for the father, who had to remain in Essen because he was a judge, soon moved to Düns, Austria, because of World War II. Hillenkamp's early life in the mountains inspired a lasting love of mountains and mountain sports. After the War the family moved back to Germany to live with Franz's maternal grandmother. Hillenkamp credits his grandmother with much of his love of learning. Having chosen the science and math track in the Gymnasium. Hillenkamp went on to major in electrical engineering at Technische Universität München (TUM). He interrupted his diploma thesis on vacuum systems to accept a Fulbright Scholarship to Purdue University, where he obtained a master's degree. Returning to TUM he finished his thesis and married. Hillenkamp's first job was with the Federal Department of Science and Technology, where he taught himself lasers and worked with them for fourteen years. During this time he also got his PhD, writing his thesis on energy meters for Q-switch lasers. Hillenkamp met Raimund Kaufmann and the two began a long-lasting collaboration; eventually this collaboration led Hillenkamp and Michael Karas to the invention of, first, laser-induced microprobe mass analysis, or LAMMA; and then matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization, or MALDI, which has been profoundly important in biology. Researching the safety of lasers led Hillenkamp to found a laser-tissue interaction laboratory; this lab became the prototype for the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Hillenkamp held a position at J. W. Goethe Universität in Frankfurt before moving to the University of Münster, where he became chair and Director of the Department of Medical Physics and Biophysics. At that time Münster was considered the center of mass spectrometry in Germany. Hillenkamp has also held visiting positions at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Università degli Studi di Napoli, University of Maryland in Munich, and other places. He talks about the many important changes to mass spectrometry, including FAB, SIMS, and electrospray, and their influence on biology and medicine. He laughingly describes the contortions needed to install his first LAMMA in the Deutsches Museum; he laments having overlooked the surgical benefits of lasers in his early studies of lasers' dangers. Hillenkamp explains some of the intricacies and drawbacks of patents, emphasizing the importance of the exchange of information in science. He maintains that his professional relationships were collaborations or friendly competitions, good for all. He never used a commercial spectrometer, except for the first LAMMA he invented Hillenkamp retired but continued his work and his play. He says he can no longer work well in the lab, so he mentors and helps others. He helped develop a submission for the Excellence Initiative before he retired. Unfortunately, a recent accident has put a crimp in his first love, skiing, but he spent his seventy-fifth birthday skydiving. He has included in the interview letters pertaining to the award of the Nobel Prize to Koichi Tanaka; Hillenkamp is still disappointed about what many spectrometrists consider a serious error by the Nobel Committee, but he is not bitter. Hillenkamp has won many other awards and has published many oft-cited articles and a textbook that is now in its second edition. He believes that his lab's work focused most importantly on the contributions of MALDI to biology and medicine.
Richard E. Honig was born in Göttingen, Germany, the eldest of three boys. His father, a professor of law at the University of Göttingen, was among the first group of professors dismissed from the university by the Nazi regime in 1933. The family subsequently relocated to Istanbul, Turkey, where Honig's father had been asked to help westernize the Turkish educational system. Honig spent his last two years of high school at a German school in Istanbul, where he augmented the classical education he received in Germany with a math and science curriculum. He went on to attend Robert College, an American college in Istanbul, from which he was graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. In 1938, Honig moved to the United States to pursue a PhD in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Through a course in nuclear physics, he became interested in the nature of atoms, molecules and particularly isotopes, and eventually built his own mass spectrometer to study the effects of deuterium and cyclotron radiation on methane. Because there was little activity in mass spectrometry at MIT at the time, Honig immersed himself in the literature and visited several commercial laboratories involved in mass spectrometry, notably John Hipple's lab at Westinghouse Corporation and a commercial lab in New England that owned a Consolidated Engineering Company (CEC) mass spectrometer. His thesis on the nature of gas flow in that mass spectrometer, which was written under the direction of Clark Goodman, an MIT geologist with good knowledge of nuclear physics, grew out of observations he made on the gas inlet system of the CEC instrument. While still a student at MIT, Honig taught for a year at Bluffton College in Ohio and then, following the completion of his PhD , taught for several years at MIT. He became a U. S. citizen in the early 1940's. In 1946, Honig accepted a position at Socony-Vacuum Labs in Paulsboro, New Jersey, where he was able to continue the pursuit of his interest in the study of small hydrocarbon molecules with mass spectrometry. Honig joined the research staff at the Radio Corporation of America Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1950, where he remained for the rest of his long career. His work began in Don North's group, studying materials used in hot cathodes. He designed and built a two-stage mass spectrometer, which led a few years later to the development of a secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS). He spent a year during the mid-1950's at the University of Brussels helping to start a mass spectrometry laboratory with Jean Drowart. He traveled extensively in Germany and England, observing the post-War recoveries of the two countries while participating in mass spectrometry conferences that were beginning to spring up in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Honig's career at RCA focused on materials characterization, particularly impurities in semiconductor materials, first with mass spectrometry and then later with a variety of surface analysis techniques when he became head of the newly formed Materials Characterization Research Group there in the mid-1960's. He reported coupling a laser to a mass spectrometer, demonstrating that the chemical nature of metal, semiconductor, and insulator surfaces could be probed by laser desorption followed by mass analysis. He and his group built a number of mass spectrometers, including several within ultrahigh vacuum systems to facilitate surface analysis. His long-time interest in cluster formation led to his measurement of elemental vapor pressures as a function of temperature and the evaluation of previously reported values for these quantities. The so-called vapor pressure curves he generated, initially hand-drawn in the days before computer-aided graphics, were first published in 1957 and updated in 1962 and 1969. Honig stepped down from his managerial position in 1982 and spent the next several years back in the laboratory helping to design and build a new mass spectrometer to study the organic materials on surfaces. When RCA was purchased by General Electric in the mid-1980's, the nature of research in the laboratories changed, and Honig elected to retire in 1987, just short of his seventieth birthday. During the interview Honig describes some of his collaborations with colleagues and his papers, of which there are many. He talks about the growth of mass spectrometry technology and its organizations, the American Society for Testing and Materials and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, of which he was the second president. He suggests that his work in the development of SIMS started in the "Stone Age" of mass spectrometry, where available electronics limited progress, and finished with the flowering of the technology which was made possible in part by the advent of solid-state devices.
Nico M. Nibbering was born in Zaandam, the Netherlands, one of eight children. When school resumed after World War II, Nibbering did well and tested into high school, where he chose the science and mathematics track and where his physics and chemistry teachers influenced him to attend college. He entered the University of Amsterdam and majored in chemistry under Thymen de Boer. Nibbering also obtained his master's and PhD degrees there and became head of the mass spectrometry department. Nibbering toured the United States, meeting a number of prominent scientists and learning more about mass spectrometers. He was especially interested in a drift cell ion cyclotron, and on his return to the Netherlands he persuaded de Boer to purchase a Varian Syrotron. This was only the first of his many instruments, as different types of spectrometers were needed for different types of problems. He refined his interest in gas phase ion chemistry during a few months spent in Fred McLafferty's lab at Cornell University and became entranced with a Fourier transform (FT) instrument. Back at home he and James Dawson transformed a drift cell ion machine into an FT spectrometer in just a year. When he considered leaving for Utrecht University, the University of Amsterdam established a research institute for him. Throughout his interview Nibbering talks about his work and the variety of mass spectrometric problems and solutions. He gives examples of his many different kinds of spectrometers and their homemade modifications. He emphasizes the importance of his travel and his networking with other scientists around the world, calling his initial trip to the United States a highlight of his career. He discusses financing his expensive instruments and the research institute established for him. He gives credit to his many colleagues and collaborators. He believes that the most important of his very many publications is his master's thesis and that his important contributions have been in gas-phase ion chemistry study. He advises would-be scientists to do what they love and to do their best; enthusiasm is crucial. He says that there are three ingredients in mass spectrometry: fundamental research; development of new ideas and methods; and applications. Nibbering details some of the more important developments in mass spectrometry, especially its use in medical science. He thinks the future of the field includes smaller, easier-to-use instruments with more and almost universal applications. Nibbering is retired, but his fascination with mass spectrometry continues undiminished. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is still editor of the Wiley-Interscience Series on Mass Spectrometry.
Klaus Biemann's oral history begins with a discussion of his youth near Vienna, Austria. As pharmacy was the family profession, Biemann chose to study it at the University of Innsbruck. He soon developed an interest in organic chemistry, however, and shifted his focus, becoming the only graduate student in this field at that time at the University of Innsbruck. Upon finishing his degree, Biemann then received an appointment at the University of Innsbruck, in the context of which he discusses his experiences as well as the post-World War II university environment. After a summer at MIT working with George Buchi, Biemann decided that the American academic system offered more opportunities than the European one and he subsequently accepted a post-doctorate position at MIT. After two years he was appointed to a faculty position in the analytical division by Arthur C. Cope, the Head of the chemistry department. Early in his tenure at MIT, Biemann's research interest shifted from natural product synthesis to the mass spectrometry of peptides and alkaloid structure. He explains how his early work expanded the perceived applications of early mass spectrometry. While talking about his research at MIT, Biemann reflects on the need to develop new experimental approaches to mass spectrometry, using IBM punch cards, writing computer code, etc. It was even difficult to get the structures of new alkaloids published, because of the novelty of the methodology used; he also discusses his funding from NIH, the first NIH Mass Spectrometry Facility grant, and support from NASA during the Apollo and Viking missions. After almost twenty years oftransforming the chemistry department, Cope left MIT and Biemann became the only analytic chemistry professor in the department. In 1958, Biemann began attending the annual meetings of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, to which he and his research group contributed much over the ensuing forty years. Throughout the oral history Biemann discusses many topics relevant to the evolution of mass spectrometry in organic chemistry and biochemistry, including computerization, the environment, and space science.