Raymond E. March

Born: March 13, 1934 | Newcastle upon Tyne, GB
Died: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Photograph of Raymond March

Photograph provided by Dr. March.

Raymond March was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. 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 before gaining admittance to University of Leeds. There he majored in chemistry and was in the University Air Squadron. He accepted a scholarship to the University of Toronto, where he worked on flash photolysis with John Polanyi. March developed a needle loop technique at Johnson & Johnson, then took a postdoc position in at McGill University, 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. He took 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. March discusses his contributions to the establishment of Trent University; his role on the editorial board of the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry; his many friends and colleagues; his trips to Europe; funding; and his patents. He concludes with an encomium of the quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer on the Rosetta mission to characterize a comet.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0921
No. of pages: 137
Minutes: 324

Interview Sessions

Michael A. Grayson
27 October 2014
Interviewee's home, Peterborough, Ontario

Abstract of Interview

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.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1957 University of Leeds BSc Chemistry
1961 University of Toronto PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

PAMETRADA Research Station

1951 to 1954
Apprentice Industrial Chemist

University of Leeds

1954 to 1957
Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve, University Air Squadron

Royal Canadian Air Force Auxiliary

1958 to 1963
Flight Lieutenant

Canadian Industries Ltd. (CIL)

1960 to 1961
Research Fellowship

Johnson and Johnson

1961 to 1962
Research Scientist

McGill University

1962 to 1963
Postdoctoral Fellow, Chemistry Department
1963 to 1965
Research Associate, Chemistry Department

Loyola College

1963 to 1965
Lecturer (part-time)

Trent University

1965 to 1969
Assistant Professor, Chemistry Department
1969 to 1976
Associate Professor, Chemistry Department
1976 to 1999
Professor of Chemistry
1999 to 2017
Professor Emeritus, Chemistry Department
2005 to 2017
Lecturer, graduate course in mass spectrometry

University of Kent

1972 to 1973
Research Professor

Queen's University

1981 to 2000
Adjunct Professor

York University

1990 to 2000
Adjunct Professor

University of Waterloo

1995 to 2000
Adjunct Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1950

Whitley Bay Grammar School, School Certificate Prize in Mathematics

1970

Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (FCIC)

1995

“Recognition Award”, Canadian Mass Spectrometry Society

1995

Distinguished Faculty Research Award, Trent University

1997

“Distinguished Contribution Award,” Canadian Mass Spectrometry Society

2000

DSc from Leeds University

2008

Docteur (honoris causa), Université d’Aix-Marseille

2009

Gerhard Herzberg Award, Canadian Society for Analytical Sciences and Spectroscopy

Table of Contents

Chronology
i
Abstract
iii
Interviewer Bio
iii
Early Years
1

Growing up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Learning Morse code from uncle. Experiences during World War II: blackouts; shortages and rationing; bomb shelters. National exam; grammar school. Boy Scouts, entertainments. Paralysis resembling polio, recovery. Apprenticeship as lab worker at PAMETRADA Research Station.

College and Graduate School Years
16

Exams; University of Leeds. Scouts, trips to France. Krupp Works in Germany. Learning to fly Chipmunks in University Air Squadron at Leeds. Visit from John Polanyi. National Service requirements increased; scholarship at University of Toronto. Flash photolysis work with Polanyi. Polanyi Nobel Prize winner later. Marriage; wife’s career as teacher. Frederick Dainton and other renowned scientists at Leeds.

Postdoctoral Years
48

Johnson & Johnson; needle loop technique. Postdoc position at McGill in Schiff’s lab. Methyl metals and microwave discharges; atmospheric chemistry. Aluminum trimethyl for Schiff and Gerald Bull. James Pitts and Barbara Finlayson and smog work. John Goodings. Sailing club. Front de Libération du Québec and kidnap-murder of MPP Pierre Laporte. Danger from terrorist attacks; cessation of funding to McGill; declining economy.

Moving On
56

Assistant professorship at new Trent University. Establishing university, hiring faculty. Sharing laboratories with physics department. Effects of Sputnik. Competition among schools for funding. Editorial board of International Journal of Mass Spectrometry. Ongoing argument with Joseph Loo, editor of Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS). Letter to Qiang Ma, explaining March’s comments on Ma’s paper. Aston’s mass spectrometer from British Science Museum. Improving ASMS meetings. Seven books with John Todd on ion traps. John Sykes and commercialization of ion traps; Jennifer Brodbelt’s contributions.

Life at Trent
56

Teaching experience. Composition, setup, philosophy and growth of university. Discussion of students, faculty, funding, Senate, union. Work on excited species in atmosphere. Sabbatical with Jean Durup in Orsay, France, learning mass spectrometry and ion traps. Frederick Lossing, John Holmes, Alexander Harrison, Robert Boyd. Quadrupole ion trap and electronics. QUISTOR and mass separation. John Fulford and Mississauga train derailment. SCIEX, collaboration with Ronald Bonner. Frank Field and Brian Chait.

Water Quality Centre
93

Establishing Trent University Water Quality Centre. Flavonoids. SYNAPT. Time-of-flight and electrospray. John Fenn. From flavonoids to antibiotics. Insect-induced metabolite changes. Surfactants in blood. Perfluorooctanoic sulfonic acid (PFOS) ban in Canada and United States. Analysis of furans, PCBs, dioxins for Varian Medical Systems. Centre’s funding and equipment: orbitrap, three MALDIs, and an ICR (ion cyclotron resonance).

Publishing
102

Book for graduate students, with John Todd and Richard Hughes. CRC Press and editorial difficulties. Conference on ion traps with Jochen Franzen and Jean-Claude Tabet at La Benerie. George Stafford and John Syka and the commercialization of quadrupole ion traps. Mechanics of joint editing. Pitts’ and Finlayson’s book, Atmospheric Chemistry. Collaboration with Jacques André, Fernande Vedel at Université de Provence.

Final Observations
112

Being an examiner in France. Trips to France. Collaborating on competition on proteins between drugs and contaminant molecules. Patents. Jennifer Brodbelt’s contributions. Funding from NSERC and CFI. Most important publications: work on high mass resolution; collisional migration with Durup and Bonner; competition for accommodation. Trent University’s quadrupole ion trap mass spectrometer on board Rosetta Mission to Characterize a Comet.

Appendix I: Letter from Raymond March to Qiang Ma
128
Index
135

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.