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Chemical Heritage Fdn.
Measuring Mass: From Positive Rays to Proteins
Michael A. Grayson
Our knowledge of the elements received a tremendous boost nearly 100 years ago when physicists began exploring the newly discovered phenomenon of "rays of positive electricity" in greater detail. This work led to the development of the first mass spectrographs, which separated the elements on the basis of their mass. The initial application of this tool was to determine the exact mass and relative abundance of the elements and their isotopes. But even as studies of the elements were underway, the idea of extending the utility of the mass spectrograph to the analysis of chemical compounds was proposed. The embodiment of that idea is the modern analytical mass spectrometer.
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