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Photograph Frank H. Field

Oral history interview with Frank H. Field

  • 2009-Dec-09 (First session)
  • 2009-Dec-10 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Frank H. Field

  • 2009-Dec-09 (First session)
  • 2009-Dec-10 (Second session)

Frank H. Field was raised in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, by an aunt, an uncle, and a grandmother. He entered Duke University, placing a year ahead in chemistry, but had very little money. To meet his expenses he worked in the school dining hall and graded math papers. He continued on at Duke for his graduate education and worked on using fluorocarbons as hydraulic fluids to replace hydrocarbons on warships. He then took a position at the University of Texas and began his mass spectrometry career. He worked first on measuring the ionization potential of cyclopropane. Field left the University of Texas to work with Joe Franklin at Humble Oil, and then after time at Esso, he was recruited by Rockefeller University as a full professor. He shifted into biochemical mass spectroscopy to be more in keeping with the biomedical orientation of Rockefeller. He built the second Californium-252 mass spectrometer in the world. A talk in Bordeaux, France, excited his enthusiasm for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) and he persuaded his postdoc, Brian Chait, to build one.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 95 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 0636

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • February 27, 1922
  • Keansburg, New Jersey, United States
  • April 12, 2013
  • Durham, North Carolina, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1943 Duke University BS Chemistry
1944 Duke University MS Chemistry
1948 Duke University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

University of Texas at Austin

  • 1947 to 1949 Instructor
  • 1949 to 1952 Assistant Professor

Humble Oil and Refining Company and Esso Research and Development

  • 1952 to 1953 Research Chemist
  • 1953 to 1960 Senior Research Chemist
  • 1960 to 1962 Research Specialist
  • 1962 to 1966 Research Associate
  • 1964 to 1966 Section Head

Esso Research and Engineering Company

  • 1966 to 1970 Group Leader
  • 1966 to 1968 Research Associate
  • 1968 to 1970 Senior Research Associate

Rockefeller University

  • 1970 to 1988 Director, Rockefeller University Extended Range Mass Spectrometric Research Resource
  • 1970 to 1988 Professor, Laboratory of Mass Spectrometry & Chemistry of Gaseous Ions
  • 1988 to 1989 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor


Year(s) Award
1963 to 1964 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow
1970 to 1972 Vice President, American Society for Mass Spectrometry
1972 to 1974 President, American Society for Mass Spectrometry
1973 to 1975 Member, Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board
1974 to 1976 Past President, American Society for Mass Spectrometry
1987 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1988 Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry

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PDF — 3.2 MB

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

3 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads