Seymour Meyerson

Born: December 4, 1916 | Chicago, IL, US
Died: May 28, 2016 | Asheville, NC, US

Seymour Meyerson was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and attended the University of Chicago from which he received his undergraduate degree. 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). His time with the military afforded him the opportunity to be trained in electronics and to encounter his first mass spectrometer. 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. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0398
No. of pages: 96
Minutes: 309

Interview Sessions

7 March 1991
Gary, Indiana

Abstract of Interview

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. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1938 University of Chicago SB Chemistry

Professional Experience

Deavitt Laboratories

1941 to 1942
Chemist
1942
Army Ordnance, Kankakee Ordnance Works

US Army

1943 to 1946
Army Signal Corps
1945
Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District

Standard Oil Company Indiana

1946 to 1951
Chemist
1951 to 1954
Assistant Project Chemist
1954 to 1957
Project Chemist
1958 to 1960
Senior Project Chemist
1960 to 1962
Senior Research Scientist
1962 to 1972
Research Associate
1972 to 1980
Senior Research Associate
1980 to 1984
Research Consultant

Table of Contents

Education and United States Army Service
1

Initial thoughts before the beginning of the oral history interview. Born in Chicago in 1916. University of Chicago. Civilian work in U. S. Army Signal Corps. Active service beginning 1943. Technical liaison officer between the Manhattan District and Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Introduction to mass spectrometry.

Beginning of Mass Spec work
12

Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Mass spectrometry instrument work. Quantitative analysis of low-boiling hydrocarbons and fixed gases. Synthetic rubber industry. Consolidated Engineering Corporation.

Reflections on the History of Mass Spectrometry
17

Earliest mass spectra. Development through the 1930s. Early contributions at California Institute of Technology. Instrumentation.

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)
21

E. B. Tucker and Henry Grubb. Mass Spectrometry. Measuring the ion current. Instrumentation. New building allowed more precise measurements. Analog computers. Metastable peaks. Herbert C. Brown. Fredrick P. Lossing.

Collaborations
34

Protonated cyclopropene. Deuterated Toluenes. Paul Rylander. Publishing. Justifying basic research in an industrial setting. Ellis Fields. Mike Karabatsos. Leonard C. Leitch. Harold Hart. Fausto Ramirez.

Continuing Research
42

Applied research. Growth of the mass spectrometry group. Corporate Management. Community of scientists. Layoffs and cut-backs in the early 1960s. Tropylium research. Carbon-13 labeling. Deuterium labeled chlorine compounds.

The Discipline of Mass Spectrometry
58

Instrumentation Assuming simplicity. Thermochemical measurements. Introduction of computers. American Society for Mass Spectrometry. Progression of discipline. Proprietary instrumentation. Intellectual property. Organizational structure within Standard Oil Company (Indiana). Establishing international collaborations.

Bibliography
77
Index
93

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.