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Oral history interview with Fred W. McLafferty

  • 2007-Jan-22 (First session)
  • 2007-Jan-23 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Fred W. McLafferty

  • 2007-Jan-22 (First session)
  • 2007-Jan-23 (Second session)

McLafferty discusses his upbringing as he continued his education in chemistry in an accelerated degree program at the University of Nebraska during World War II. Having enlisted in the war and after months of combat, McLafferty returned to Nebraska to earn his Master's degree and later his doctoral degree at Cornell University. Shifting his interests to organic chemistry, he entered industry at the Dow Chemical Company where he was introduced to mass spectrometry, a field that figures prominently in much of McLafferty's collaborations and scientific work. Eventually, he moved into academia, teaching and researching at Purdue University and then Cornell University.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 175 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 0352

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • May 11, 1923
  • Evanston, Illinois, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1943 University of Nebraska BS Chemistry
1947 University of Nebraska MS
1950 Cornell University PhD

Professional Experience

University of Iowa

  • 1950 Post-Doctorate under Ralph Shriner

Dow Chemical Company

  • 1950 to 1956 In charge of mass spectrometry and gas chromatography
  • 1956 to 1964 First Director of Eastern Research Laboratory, Basic Research

Purdue University

  • 1964 to 1968 Professor of Chemistry

Cornell University

  • 1968 to 2008 Professor of Chemistry


Year(s) Award
1972 American Chemical Society Award in Chemical Instrumentation
1975 Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh Award
1981 American Chemical Society Award in Analytical Chemistry
1983 Honorary DSc degree, University of Nebraska
1984 New York Section- American Chemical Society Nichols Gold Medal
1985 International Mass Spectrometry Society J. J. Thomson Gold Medal
1985 Cincinnati Section- American Chemical Society Oesper Award
1985 The Association of Analytical Chemistry Award
1986 East Tennessee Section- American Chemical Society S. C. Lind Award
1987 Ohio State University W. L. Evans Award
1987 Honorary DSc degree, The University of Liège
1989 University of Naples Gold Medal
1989 American Chemical Society Award in Mass Spectrometry
1992 Royal Society of Chemists Robert Boyle Gold Medal
1994 Pioneer in Analytical Instrumentation Award
1995 Honorary DSc degree, Purdue University
1996 American Institute of Chemistry Chemical Pioneer Award
1997 Utrecht University J. M. Bijvoet Medal
1999 Czech Academy of Sciences J. Heyrovsky Medal
2000 Italian Chemical Society G. Natta Gold Medal
2001 Swedish Chemical Society Torbern Bergman Medal
2003 American Society of Mass Spectrometry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mass Spectrometry
2004 French Chemical Society Lavoisier Medal
2006 International Association of Protein Structure Analysis and Proteomics Pehr Edman Award

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PDF — 1.0 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