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Seymour Meyerson

Seymour Meyerson

Detail of Image, CHF Collections

  • Born: 1916, Chicago, Illinois

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0398
Interview Date: March 7, 1991
Location: Gary, Indiana
Interviewer: Michael A. Grayson
No. of pages: 104
Minutes: 309
Sponsor: American Society for Mass Spectrometry
American Society for Mass Spectrometry

  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 U.S. military. By 1943 Meyerson began active service with the U.S. 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.


1938 S.B., Chemistry, University of Chicago

  Professional Experience

Deavitt Laboratories, Chicago, Illinois

1941 - 1942 Chemist

Deavitt Laboratories, Chicago, Illinois


Army Ordnance, Kankakee Ordnance Works, Joliet, Illinois

United States Army

1943 - 1946 Army Signal Corps

United States Army


Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1946 - 1951 Chemist

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1951 - 1954 Assistant Project Chemist

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1954 - 1957 Project Chemist

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1958 - 1960 Senior Project Chemist

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1960 - 1962 Senior Research Scientist

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1962 - 1972 Research Associate

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1972 - 1980 Senior Research Associate

Standard Oil Company (Indiana)/Amoco Corporation

1980 - 1984 Research Consultant

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

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 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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