History of Mass Spectrometry - Pioneers

Mass spectrometry originated from studies of cathode rays at the turn of the 20th century. It began in 1918/9 when it was developed by Francis William Aston to discover isotopes for many of the chemical elements. The field has a long and rich history over the past 100+ years and is now widely used for molecular identification and characterisation within many fields of science and medicine. The articles below bring to life some of the field's early pioneers.


"There used to be many anecdotes about the Thomson-Rutherford-Aston trio. Someone should write them down before they are forgotten."
Nobel Laureate Alan Lloyd Hodgkin, Biophysicist


"The study of the history of science is of the greatest importance to the scientific man, and ... when properly treated, a most fascinating study.
Arthur Schuster, Physicist

NEW:  Downard KM (2022) Building Australia's First Mass Spectrometer. Recognizing the Achievements of J. Roger Bird, J. Mass Spectrom., e4887.   https://doi.org/10.1002/jms.4887


NEW:  Downard KM (2022) J. Roger Bird and Australia's First Mass Spectrometer, Aust. Physics, 59(3): 15-18.   https://aip.org.au/page-18243


Downard KM (2021) Joseph John Thomson Investigates the Paranormal, Eur. J. Mass Spectrom., 27: 151-157.   http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/14690667211050599


Downard KM (2015) Francis William Aston, in Encyclopedia of Mass Spectrometry, Vol. 9B (eds. Nier KA, Yergey AL, Gale PJ) Elsevier, Netherland, pp. 6-8.   https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780081003794/the-encyclopedia-of-mass-spectrometry


Downard KM (2012) 1912 - A Titanic Year for Mass Spectrometry, J. Mass Spectrom., 47, 1034-1039. (cover article of August 2012 issue). http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/jms.3071


Downard KM (2009) J.J. Thomson Goes to America, J. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom., 20, 1964-1973. (cover article of November 2009 issue)  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasms.2009.07.008


Downard KM (2007) Francis William Aston - The Man Behind the Mass Spectrograph, Eur. Mass Spectrom., 13, 177-190.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1255/ejms.878

Downard KM (2007) Cavendish's Crocodile and Dark Horse: The Lives of Rutherford and Aston in Parallel, Mass Spectrom. Rev., 26, 713-723.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/mas.20145


Other biographies relevant to the history of mass spectrometry in Australia


Downard KM (2015) John Hamilton Bowie, in Encyclopedia of Mass Spectrometry, Vol. 9B (eds. Nier KA, Yergey AL, Gale PJ) Elsevier, Netherland, pp. 25-26.   https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780081003794/the-encyclopedia-of-mass-spectrometry


Downard KM, deLaeter JR, (2005) A History of Mass Spectrometry in Australia, J. Mass Spectrom., 40: 1123-1139.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jms.911


Downard KM (2006) The Life and Travels to Australia of Francis Aston - Inventor of the Mass  Spectrograph, Chem. in Aust., 1/2: 17-20.   PDF copy