Henry Earl Lumpkin

Born: March 1, 1920 | Ingram, TX, US
Died: July 5, 2012 | Round Rock, TX, US

Henry Earl Lumpkin discusses his trajectory from his Texas childhood to his career in mass spectrometry. Lumpkin received his bachelor's degree in chemistry at Southwestern Texas State University and joined the U. S. Army Air Corps, where he took graduate classes in meteorology before taking a position at Humble Oil and Refining Company, where Lumpkin was able to take courses, publish, and take part in innovative research. Lumpkin also discusses his role in the American Society for Testing and Materials, as well as in the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and his thoughts on the future of mass spectrometry. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0194
No. of pages: 16
Minutes: 152

Interview Sessions

Michael A. Grayson
2 January 1992
Round Rock, Texas

Abstract of Interview

Henry Earl Lumpkin begins the interview by discussing his family background and how he learned to value education. His family had a tradition of attending Southwestern Texas State University and becoming school teachers. Watching his father's career persuaded him not to be a teacher and Lumpkin decided to major in chemistry and minor in physics and mathematics at Southwestern Texas State University. After graduating in three and a half years, Lumpkin joined the US Army Air Corps. In the Air Corps, he took graduate classes in meteorology at the University of California at Los Angeles. During World War II, Lumpkin was promoted to a captain and served as a Base Weather Officer. After the Air Corps, he went to work for Humble Oil and Refining Company as a mass spectrometrist. He then describes the state of instrumentation during his career at Humble and the innovations that were being made in that field. Lumpkin speaks highly of Humble's professional development program. Humble Lectures in Science Series allowed employees to take time away from work and attend classes taught by esteemed professors. Lumpkin also talks about the freedom he was given by the company's administration when submitting publications to research journals. He feels that the company's encouraging attitude towards scientific pursuit was very important. Along with his many achievements in the development of mass spectrometry, Lumpkin also played key roles in the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). He was chairman of ASTM E-14 and Vice President of ASMS. Lumpkin ends the interview with thoughts on his colleagues and the future of mass spectroscopy. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 Southwest Texas State University BS Chemistry
1942 University of California, Los Angeles Meteorology
2016 University of Chicago Institute of Tropical Meteorology (University of Chicago San Juan, Puerto Rico, Campus)

Professional Experience

US Air Force

1942 to 1943
Second Lieutenant
1943 to 1944
First Lieutenant
1944 to 1945

Humble Oil & Refining Company

1945 to 1948
Physicist in Research and Development
1948 to 1960
Research Chemist
1960 to 1963
Senior Research Chemist
1963 to 1965
Research Specialist

Esso Research and Engineering Company

1965 to 1968
Senior Research Specialist

Exxon Research and Engineering Company

1969 to 1980
Research Associate


Year(s) Award

Freshman scholarship, Southwest Texas University


Secretary and Treasurer, ASTM E-14


Director of Analytical Group, American Chemical Society, Southeast Texas Section


Principle Speaker on Mass Spectrometry, Seventh World Petroleum Conference


Chairman, ASTM E-14


Vice President, Data and Standards, ASMS


Organizer and first President, Young at Heart Round Rock Social


President, Cedar Park Chapter, American Association for Retired Persons

Table of Contents

Family Background and Education

Family's tradition as educators. Education at Southwest Texas State University. Learning to value education. Developing an interest in chemistry.

US Army Air Corps

WWII. Being assigned to the United States Army Air Corps. Taking graduate-level courses in meteorology at University of California, Los Angeles. Serving in the Ninth Weather Squadron as a meteorologist.

Career at Humble Oil and Refining Company

Humble Research and Development Division and mass spectrometry. Use of Consolidated Engineering Corporation (CEC) and Westinghouse Electric Corporation instruments. Heated inlet systems and other developments in mass spectrometry. Humble's transition from Standard Oil Company to Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Humble Lectures in Science Series

Description of courses and professors. Joe L. Franklin. Going to lunch with Linus and Ava Helen Pauling.


Humble's corporate process for approval for publication. Analytical Chemistry. Earl Lumpkin on Mass Spectrometry. Working for Exxon Production Research Company. Thomas Aczel. Process of obtaining and using mass spectrometers. Technical development of mass spectrometers.

American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS)

ASMS's predecessor the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and its meetings. Camaraderie between Texans and the singing of "The Eyes of Texas. " Attending the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (PittCon). Starting the ASTM E-14 Conference. Conference in Montreal.


Archie Hood. Jean Futrell. Burnaby Munson. John Waldron. John Beynon. Nigel Bean. Martin Elliot.


Lumpkin and Thomas Aczel using an Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) MS-9 mass spectrometer, June 1974.


Lumpkin and Thomas Aczel using an Associated Electrical Industry [AEI] MS-9 mass spectrometer, June 1974


About the Interviewer

Michael A. Grayson

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.