Episode 144: Mystery of Mass (Spec)

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What is it and what does it do? Image courtesy of the Bendix Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Collection, CHF Collections.

Mass spectrometry: what is it and how does it work? Many of us have heard of this practice, but even experts have a hard time explaining what it means. Luckily CHF recently created an online exhibit about mass spec that both demystifies it and reveals its uses in everything from infant genetic testing to the development of the atomic bomb. First we take a look at these everyday applications. Then we reach into our oral history vaults to learn more about the development of mass spec in the words of one of its pioneering scientists.

Show Clock

0:00 Opening Credits
0:33 Introduction
1:12 What is Mass Spec?
4:22 Oral History: Alfred Nier
12:18 Closing Credits


Visit Critical Mass: A History of Mass Spectrometry for more stories about this fascinating field. Also, listen to more oral histories from members of the mass spec community on CHF's website.

Special thanks to Sarah Hunter-Lascoskie for researching this show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Music from the Free Music Archive includes Beach Point Pleasant by Ducktails. Thanks also to for some music selections.

Image from the Bendix Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Collection, CHF Collections.

Posted In: History | Technology

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The Museum at CHF

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Explore the fascinating history of chemistry and the role science plays in the modern world at our museum in Philadelphia.

Arnold O. Beckman

CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry was started with a generous grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1987.



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