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Keith R. Jennings

  • Born: December 5, 1932, Sheffield, United Kingdom

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0419
Interview Dates: April 24, 2008 and April 25, 2008
Location: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Interviewer: Michael A. Grayson
No. of pages: 173
Minutes: 333
Sponsor: American Society for Mass Spectrometry
American Society for Mass Spectrometry

  Abstract of Interview

Keith R. Jennings begins his oral history discussing his youth in Sheffield, England. With parents supportive of his education, Jennings excelled, earning a spot at the prestigious King Edward VII Grammar School. Upon completing his examinations, Jennings applied to the University of Oxford where he was awarded the Hastings Scholarship to Queen's College. While at Queen's College, Jennings pursued his B.A. with Jack Wilfrid Linnett. After achieving First Class Honors distinction, Jennings continued his research with Linnett to complete an M.A. and D.Phil. Following his time at the University of Oxford, Jennings conducted post-doctoral research with Robert J. Cevetanovic at the National Research Council in Ottawa, Canada. While Jennings worked with Cevetanovic he became more interested in the burgeoning research field of mass spectrometry. Returning to England after two years in Canada, Jennings began a post at the University of Sheffield, first as a Lecturer and then as a Reader. While at Sheffield, Jennings pursued research in the mass spectrometry of gas kinetics, fluorine compounds, and metastable transitions. He began building his own equipment and became involved in the emerging British mass spectrometry community. Jennings discusses Ion Cyclotron Resonance research, time dependant ion fragmentation, and collision induced spectroscopy. After moving to the University of Warwick in 1972, Jennings continued his research on fluorinated compounds, metastables, and the fundamental research of gas phase ion chemistry. Additionally, he became interested in the biological aspects of science and began a mass spectrometry research program around peptides. While at Warwick, Jennings spent much time involved in department administration as the chemistry department's chair. Ultimately he moved into the Biological Sciences department tofurther pursue his collaboration with Howard Dalton. Jennings spends much time talking about the development of the mass spectrometry community in Great Britain, especially the contributions of John Beynon and the historical shift when chemists became interested in mass spectrometry after World War II. Jennings also discusses mass spectrometry curricula and his own teaching experiences both in England and abroad. Throughout the interview, Jennings talks about his research, teaching, and personal collaborations with many prominent members of the mass spectrometry community including Michael T. Bowers, Jean Futrell, Michael Barber, and Martin Elliott.


1956 B.A., Chemistry, Queen's College, University of Oxford
1958 M.A., D.Phil., Chemistry, Queen's College, University of Oxford

  Professional Experience

National Research Council, Ottawa

1958 - 1960 Post-Doctorate, under R. J. Cvetanovic

University of Sheffield

1960 - 1969 Lecturer

University of Sheffield

1969 - 1972 Reader

University of Warwick

1972 - 1997 Professor of Physical Chemistry

University of Warwick

1974 - 1980 Chairman of Chemistry Department

University of Warwick

1983 - 1985 Chairman, Board of Science

University of Warwick

1983 - 1986 Chairman of Chemistry Department

University of Warwick

1989 - 1995 Chairman of Chemistry Department

University of Warwick

1997 - Present Emeritus Research Professor in Department of Biological Sciences


1985 Thomson Medal presented by the International Mass Spectrometry Congress
1995 Award for Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry presented by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
1996 Visiting Gulbenkian Professor, New University of Lisbon
1997 Honorary D.Sc., University of Lisbon, Portugal
1998 Field and Franklin Award for Outstanding Work in Mass Spectrometry presented by the American Chemical Society
1998 Aston Medal for Outstanding Contributions presented by the British Mass Spectrometry Society
1998 Elected Life Member of the British Mass Spectrometry Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Early Education 1

Growing up in Sheffield, United Kingdom. Being chosen for King Edward VII Grammar School. Encouragement towards University of Oxford. Hastings Scholarship to Queen's College. Influences of the Chemistry Master, Mr. Hargreaves. National Service with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Avoiding Korea because of possible scarlet fever infection.

Higher Education and Post-Doctorate 10

Queen's College, University of Oxford. Tutor Jack Wilfrid Linnett. Examination after three years. Part 2 research. Nitrogen atom reactions. First Class Honors. Continuing research with Linnett for D.Phil. NationalResearch Council in Ottawa, Canada. Mass Spectrometry research with Robert J. Cvetanovic.

The University of Sheffield 19

University of Sheffield. Assistant Professor. Mass spectrometry and gas kinetics research. Building his own equipment. Fluorine research. The advent of metastable transitions and John Beynon. Joining various mass spectrometry groups. Burgeoning mass spectrometry community.

Ion Cyclotron Resonance Research 30

Time-of-Flight mass spectrometry. Time-dependant ion fragmentation. Varian's Syrotron. Collaboration with Michael T. Bowers. Sharing MS9 machine within the department. Collision induced spectroscopy research.

The University of Warwick and the Biological Sciences 40

University of Warwick. Building a second Ion Cyclotron Resonance machine. Continuing research on fluorinated compounds and metastables. Fundamental research in gas phase ion chemistry. Beginning research on peptides. Crossed beam mass spectrometry. Joining Howard Dalton's research group. Taking his equipment with him. Christmas lecture on proteomics. Development of mass spectrometers.

Collaborations, Administration, and Mass Spectrometry in Britain 61

Mass spectrometry community in industry. Collaborations in biology. Accommodating faculty on sabbatical leave in his lab. Administrative work within the department. Fifteen of twenty-five years in the chemistry department as chair. Chairman of the Board of Science. John Beynon. Early interest from the oil companies. British Mass Spectrometry Society founded 1964. Introduction of interpretation into undergraduate curricula. Post-graduate curricula. Lecturing abroad. NATO courses.

Mass Spectrometry Research 85

Combining radical gas kinetics and spectroscopy. Scientific method and publishing. Fast-atom bombardement. Surface induced collisions. Time of Flight. Researching Mad Cow Disease and protein folding through ion mobility.

Personal Interactions 94

John Beynon and metastables. Publishing. Founding the mass spectroscopy journals. Separating mass spec from more mainstream chemistry and science. Discipline formation. Alfred Gordon Gaydon. Klaus Biemann. Michael Barber and Martin Elliot. Nico Nibbering. Jean Futrell. R. Graham Cooks. Allan Maccoll. Dudley Williams.

Teaching and Colleagues 120

Thermodynamics. Popular course for pre-university students. Increased teaching because of small department size. Urs P. Schlunegger. Jean-Claude Tabet. James H. Scrivens. Alzira Almoster-Ferreira. University of Lisbon. University of Malawi.

Bibliography 140

Index 158

  About the Interviewers

Michael A. Grayson

Michael A. Grayson is a member of the Mass Spectrometry Research Resource at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his B.S. degree in physics from St. Louis University in 1963 and his M.S. 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.

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