American Society for Mass Spectrometry, Board of Directors 1972-1974. Seated left to right: A. H. Struck; F. H. Field; H. J. Svec; F. E. Saalfeld; Standing left to right: R. E. Honig; J. Berkowitz; M. T. Laug; H. E. Lumpkin, E. B. Owens. CHF Collections.

The Beginning of ASMS

Rick Honig, Harry Svec, Frank Field  at ASMS 32nd Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, May 27-June 1, 1984. CHF Collections.

As the community grew, gaining momentum and energy, many eager mass spectrometrists at the 1952 Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) petitioned the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for the creation of a committee specifically on mass spectrometry and allied topics. This committee, a precursor to the ASMS, became known as ASTM E-14. The following year the committee was a cosponsor of the Pittcon meeting. Frank Field recalls, “ASTM first got interested in mass spectrometry in . . . I’m going to say 1950 [. . .] and it set up a committee. That’s the way the ASTM is organized in terms of committees. There was Committee E-14 on mass spectrometry. The first meeting of that committee, if I recall correctly was in New Orleans in 1951 [1954]” (Field, 61).

After the development of ASTM E-14 there were regular meetings among the growing mass-spectrometry community members. Burnaby Munson describes his first experiences with ASTM E-14 meetings while at Humble Oil:

The first mass-spec meeting that I went to was probably in 1963, and I went because neither Joe [Franklin] nor Frank [Field] either wanted to go or could go. And I think it was a meeting in San Francisco, and it was a plum. It was great to go to the meeting, because I think that was . . . that was probably my first meeting to do that. I can’t remember what I talked about, but I think it was Fred Lossing who came up afterwards and talked to me about what it is, about the paper that I had given. And that was one of the things that I noticed about the early mass-spec meetings, a collegiality, a geniality, a general interest about them. (Munson, 46)

Eventually, according to Richard Honig, second president of ASMS, “That [committee] group went well beyond the description, being an ASTM-sponsored committee. And of course, it became more and more clear as time went on; so this then led to the thought that we should be a separate but equal society, who with ASTM was in parallel” (Honig, 42). As more people attended the ASTM E-14 meetings, it became clear that in many ways the committee was becoming more popular than everything else at ASTM meetings.

Seymour Meyerson, Lottie Meyerson and Carl Brunnie (?)  at ASMS 32nd Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, May 27-June 1, 1984. CHF Collections.

Since 1969 ASMS has grown and evolved—just like the field itself—from a small specialty society with a small meeting to a larger one with overlapping sessions. As Burnaby Munson recalls, “And only recently they’ve gone up to two parallel sessions. The old-timers complained about that, because they couldn’t go to everything. People tended to go to everything” (Munson, 46). While attendees were surely pleased by the increasing interest in mass-spectrometry instrumentation and applications, the overlapping sessions created an inconvenience for attendees: how would one choose what to attend? Seymour Meyerson confirms the dilemma:

There was a huge struggle before we went from just one single session to two simultaneous sessions, and another big struggle when we introduced a third simultaneous session, and a fourth, and I don’t know whether it’s gone beyond that or not since then. The moment simultaneous sessions came on the scene, I started to find myself with conflicts. And I’ve always found myself with conflicts of that kind at ASMS conferences. Somehow the papers, if I go to a meeting and I have a dozen papers that I want to hear, the chances are very good that they will be given at only four or five or six different times, and there would be two or three different papers given simultaneously in different places that I would like to get in. And it can’t be done. (Meyerson, 63)


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