The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
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.
|1951||University of Innsbruck||PhD||Organic Chemistry|
University of Innsbruck
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Honorary Member, Belgian Chemical Society
Stas Medal, Belgian Chemical Society
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
|1969 to 1977||
Team Leader, Viking Molecular Analysis Team
Tricentennial Medal, University of Innsbruck
Powers Award, American Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Outstanding Spectroscopist Award, Society for Applied Spectroscopy, New York Section
Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Fritz Pregl Medal, Austrian Microchemical Society
Newcomb Cleveland Prize (co-recipient), American Association for the Advancement of Science
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Honorary Member, Japanese Society for Medical Mass Spectrometry
|1983 to 1984||
Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry, American Chemical Society
Maurice F. Hasler Award, Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh
Pehr Edman Award for Outstanding Achievements in Mass Spectrometry
Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences
Oesper Award, University of Cincinnati
Beckman Award, Association of Biomedical Resource Facilities
Award in Analytical Chemistry, American Chemical Society
The Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry
Table of Contents
Growing up near Vienna, Austria. Pharmacy as the family profession. University of Innsbruck Pharmacy degree. Growing interest in organic chemistry. Lone organic chemistry student. World War II. Appointment at University of Innsbruck. Post-war university experience.
Summer Program for foreign students. George Buchi. The American academic system. Post-doctoral fellowship. Post-war MIT. Chemistry department reforms under Arthur C. Cope. Analytical spectroscopy tools.
Natural product synthesis. Research shifts to mass spectrometry of peptides. Conversion of peptides into polyamino alcohols. Logistics of running the mass spectrometer. Alkaloid structure determination. Expanding the early applications of mass spectrometry.
Book about mass spectrometry. Tenure. Difficulty publishing the structures of alkaloids determined by mass spectrometry. Using IBM punched cards. Writing computer code. National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health grants. First NIH Mass Spectrometry Facility grant.
Working with samples from space. Work with Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Building instruments for a Mars lander.
Arthur C. Cope leaving. Research Laboratory of Electronics. Only analytical chemistry faculty member. Importance of defining analyticalchemistry as a unique division.
Early mass spectrometry at universities. Current levels of computer automation. Environmental uses. Anti-doping. Tandem mass spectrometry.
Began attending in 1958. Informal settings. Evolution of the meetings.
Computers. Internet. Resolution. Nobel Prize for mass spectrometry. Advancement in space research.
About the Interviewer
Michael A. Grayson is a member of the Mass Spectrometry Research Resource at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his BS degree in physics from St. Louis University in 1963 and his MS in physics from the University of Missouri at Rolla in 1965. He is the author of over 45 papers in the scientific literature. Before joining the Research Resource, he was a staff scientist at McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratory. While completing his undergraduate and graduate education, he worked at Monsanto Company in St. Louis, where he learned the art and science of mass spectrometry. Grayson is a member of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS), and has served many different positions within that organization. He has served on the Board of Trustees of CHF and is currently a member of CHF's Heritage Council. He currently pursues his interest in the history of mass spectrometry by recording oral histories, assisting in the collection of papers, and researching the early history of the field.