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Portrait of James A. McCloskey

Oral history interview with James A. McCloskey, Jr.

  • 2012-Mar-19 (First session)
  • 2012-Mar-20 (Second session)

Oral history interview with James A. McCloskey, Jr.

  • 2012-Mar-19 (First session)
  • 2012-Mar-20 (Second session)

James A. McCloskey, Jr., grew up in San Antonio, Texas. He entered Trinity University in San Antonio, where he majored in chemistry; he earned a PhD in analytical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After fulfilling his ROTC commitment by working for the US Army Chemical Corps, McCloskey returned to Klaus Biemann's lab at MIT, where he began his lifelong interest in and study of nucleosides/nucleotides, necessitating different types of mass spectrometers. He turned down the Karolinska Institutet for a job at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He began a twenty-year collaboration with Susumu Nishimura in Tokyo, Japan, and made his first of many trips there. His lab discovered the nucleoside Q. He began his part of the search for the roots of the tree of life, which consists of bacteria, eukaryotes, and archaea. McCloskey spent six months of a sabbatical at the National Cancer Research Institute in Tokyo before going to the University of Utah as a visiting professor. He decided to accept a full professorship there. McCloskey became secretary, vice president, then president of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS).

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 150 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Michael A. Grayson is a member of the Mass Spectrometry Research Resource at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his BS degree in physics from St. Louis University in 1963 and his MS 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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0702

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • June 25, 1936
  • San Antonio, Texas, United States
  • August 30, 2017
  • Helotes, Texas, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1957 Trinity University (San Antonio, Tex.) BS Chemistry
1963 Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

United States. Army

  • 1959 to 1961 Chemist, United States Army Chemical Corps, Unites States Army Biological Laboratories, Fort Detrick, Maryland

Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles

  • 1963 to 1964 Postdoctoral Fellow (National Institutes of Health)

Baylor College of Medicine

  • 1964 to 1967 Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • 1967 to 1971 Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • 1971 to 1974 Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biochemistry in the Institute for Lipid Research and the Department of Biochemistry

Tōkyō Daigaku

  • 1971 to 1972 Visiting Professor

Center for Cancer Research (National Cancer Institute (U.S.))

  • 1971 to 1992 Visiting Investigator

University of Utah

  • 1972 Visiting Professor, Departments of Chemistry and Biopharmaceutical Sciences
  • 1976 to 2003 Director, Mass Spectrometry Facility
  • 1976 to 2007 Professor of Biomedical Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Department of Medicinal Chemistry
  • 1976 to 2007 Adjunct Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry
  • 1993 to 1995 Director, Interdepartmental Biological Chemistry Program
  • 2007 to 2013 Professor Emeritus, Departments of Medicinal Chemistry, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Year(s) Award
1972 National Institutes of Health Special Fellow, University of Utah
1989 Distinguished Research Award, University of Utah
2005 Award for Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry, American Society for Mass Spectrometry
2009 Fellow, Section on Chemistry, American Association for the Advacement of Science

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PDF — 958 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

4 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads