Analytical Chemistry Then and Now
hree days from now I wiil be giving a lecture, entitled "Whither Goes Analytical Chemistry?", at the Australian International Symposium on Analytical Science in Melbourne. While preparing this lecture, I reflected on the contrasts between analytical chemistry in the 1950s and that of today. Historical reality is, for many professional people, that which is witnessed during their own careers. As a result, ,ounger readers may not see some of this as reality, but it was.
Where was analytical chemistry in the 1950s? It was an exciting time because the concepts and instruments that were the genesis of "instrumental analysis" were just starting to emerge. Imagine, if you can, a time when analytical chemistry was being done without instruments! You would be helpless—no GC/MS, no FT-IR, no atomic absorption, no digital recorders. The petroleum industry was prospering during that time, and its needs were integral to the development of vibrational spectroscopy and chemical separations. However, while progress was being made in instrumental research, much of academic analytical chemistry remained based on classic reaction chemistry such 3S titrations of organic functional In some universities analytical chemistry became regarded as "too applied" (as was polymer chemistrv) and this erosion of peer led to the replacement of retiring analytical famlty with faculty in different areas of chemistrv The chemical industry was lartrely based on commodity chemicals and industry pressure for analytical chemists was modest by today's standards There were no sophisticated pharmaceutical Plants or microfabrication lines that required the inventions and services of analytical chemists. In renaming areas of chemical grant support, the National Science Foundation almost eliminated the term analytical . It is fair to say that, even with the excitement about instrumental analysis at that time, paranoia emerged among some analytical chemists about the survival of their discipline.
peer respect throughout chemistry and related fields. Instrumental analysis is now almost an oxymoron—when do you not use an instrument in your analysis? Analytical chemists have become an enduring part of the fabric of industrial laboratories. Research in the discipline is charging toward vast new horizons in the fields of biotechnology, materials chemistry, atmospheric science, and environmental monitoring. There is a public expectation that analytical chemists can measure anything— after all, it's done on Star Trek kll the time! What are the central factors that have caused these changes? I think there are at least four. Perhaps the most important is the huge intellectual scope that developing instrumental measurements gives the discipline. In MS, for example, analytical chemists have subsumed the physics of mass analyzers, the information science of spectral libraries, the principles of gas-phase chemical reactivity, and the sampling dynamics arising from its marriage to GC. A second giant factor has been changes in the character of the chemical industry. The emergence of pharmaceutical, microfabrication, and chemical materials companies as distinctive industries and the current explosive growth of biotechnology-based commerce have produced needs for analytical chemical measurements and for people trained to perform them The imposition of government regulations regarding environmental and health protection has been accompanied by a plethora of required analyses and industrial activities are now intertwined with cal chemistrv has attracted its share of the best'minds in chemistrv over the years and the continuing quality of this human research has'heen crucial Those who have witnessed analytical chemistry during both the 1950s and 1990s may see other vital lspects that I have left out. History, after all, is limited by the foibles of human recollection. The above is my own.
The end of the 1990s stands in sharp contrast to the end of the 1950s. Analytical chemistry has strengths in both basics and applications, and it enjoys a high level of
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