Digital Collections

Oral history interview with Burnaby Munson

  • 2010-Apr-09

Oral history interview with Burnaby Munson

  • 2010-Apr-09

Burnaby Munson entered Tarleton State College in central Texas and transferred to the University of Texas in Austin, Texas; physical chemistry was his favorite subject. He studied the reactions of acetylene while in Robbin Anderson's lab and completed his PhD there as well. Munson's first job was with Humble Oil in Baytown, Texas, where he worked on solution thermodynamics, extracting paraffins from aromatics. Humble was collegial, and training continued with a lecture series organized by Joe Franklin, who was a good friend and mentor to Munson. Franklin's small group of high-profile scientists developed the field of ion chemistry in mass spectrometry (MS). When Franklin left Humble for Rice University, the ion chemistry group began to break up. Frank Field took his high-pressure instrument to New Jersey; Frederick Lampe went to Pennsylvania State University; and Munson took a position at the University of Delaware. Munson was recruited to use Delaware's two instruments, an old time of flight (TOF) and a new CEC 21-110. As a replacement for Joe Franklin and Frank Field, Munson attended his first American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) meeting, which he says was "a plum." He has since attended most of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) meetings, which subsumed ASTM, and he was president of the Society.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 72 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 0688

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • March 20, 1933
  • Wharton, Texas, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1952 Tarleton State University AA
1954 University of Texas at Austin BA Chemistry with Highest Honors
1956 University of Texas at Austin MA Chemistry
1959 University of Texas at Austin PhD Physical Chemistry

Professional Experience

Esso Research and Engineering Company

  • 1959 to 1962 Research Chemist
  • 1962 to 1966 Senior Research Chemist
  • 1966 to 1967 Research Specialist

University of Delaware

  • 1967 to 1972 Associate Professor, Chemistry Department
  • 1972 to 2011 Professor, Chemistry Department
  • 1973 to 1975 Acting Chair, Chemistry Department
  • 1976 to 2011 Professor, University Honors Program
  • 1986 to 1989 Director, University Honors Program
  • 2005 to 2011 C. Eugene Bennett Chair, Chemistry Department


Year(s) Award
1973 Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Delaware
1979 Spectroscopist of the Year, Delaware Chapter, Society for Applied Spectroscopy
1984 Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Teaching
1986 Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Teaching
1988 Mortar Board Award for Excellence in Teaching
1992 Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry
1992 Award for Scientific Achievement and Contributions in Chemistry, Delaware Section, American Chemical Society
1992 Francis Alison Award, University of Delaware
1994 Outstanding Faculty Mentor, University of Delaware, College of Arts and Sciences
1996 Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry, American Society for Mass Spectrometry
1997 Madison Marshall Award, North Alabama Section, American Chemical Society
1998 Service Award, Delaware Section, American Chemical Society
2000 Excellence in Teaching Award, Alpha Lambda Delta, University of Delaware Chapter
2002 Medal of Distinction, University of Delaware
2004 Special Issue: European Journal of Mass Spectrometry, dedicated to Jean Futrell and Burnaby Munson
2007 Outstanding Achievement in the Fields of Analytical Chemistry, Eastern Analytical Symposium
2008 Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists
2008 Outstanding Older Worker, Experience Works

Cite as

See our FAQ page to learn how to cite an oral history.

PDF — 463 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

2 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads