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Oral history interview with Kenneth G. Standing

  • 2014-Oct-29

Oral history interview with Kenneth G. Standing

  • 2014-Oct-29

Kenneth Standing grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the oldest of four children. His father was an accountant, his mother a primary school teacher and housewife. Standing says he ended up in science by process of elimination, by gradually ruling out subjects he did not love. He won a senior scholarship to the University of Manitoba. World War II intervened, and he joined the University Naval Training Division (UNTD), which had him stoking and cleaning boilers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Shelburne, Ontario, for a year. For his PhD, Standing followed a friend to Princeton University’s physics department, where he worked on scintillation counting in Rubby Sherr’s nuclear physics lab and then on a fast-cycling cloud chamber with Milton White. Both experiments failed, but Standing’s two theses, one on double beta decay; and the other on proton-deuteron (p-d) reactions in nitrogen-14, got him his degree. As a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, Standing was one of the first to study gamma-ray scattering. He spent five years building a cyclotron for Manitoba, tried to help fix the one in Grenoble, France, and then returned to Manitoba to become director of the cyclotron there. A project analyzing protein in wheat for the Grain Research Laboratory, and the arrival of Brian Chait from University of Oxford, pushed Standing toward mass spectrometry. When Chait went to Rockefeller University, Werner Ens and Ronald Beavis became Standing’s first graduate students in mass spectrometry. All of his honors have been bestowed since he left nuclear physics, he says. Standing discusses his many collaborations, pointing out that he needed chemists to provide the raw materials for his work. He explains his collaboration with SCIEX on a hybrid mass spectrometer. He talks about developing and perpetuating the field of time-of-flight mass spec, citing as his most important contribution his 1981 publication of the design of his original time-of-flight mass spectrometer. He also believes that his work on collisional damping was seminal. He talks about his publication record and his patents. When his funding from the National Institutes of Health and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council came to an end, Standing retired, but he continues to provide analysis for other faculty members and good public relations for the University.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 92 pages
  • 03:35:00
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 0922

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • April 03, 1925
  • Winnipeg, Canada


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1948 University of Manitoba BSc Mathematics and Physics
1950 Princeton University AM Physics
1955 Princeton University PhD Physics

Professional Experience

University of Manitoba

  • 1953 to 1959 Assistant Professor
  • 1959 to 1964 Associate Professor
  • 1959 to 1967 Director, Cyclotron Laboratory
  • 1964 to 1995 Professor
  • 1995 to 2015 Profesor Emeritus


Year(s) Award
1950 to 1951 Class of 1883 Fellow, Princeton University
1952 to 1953 Charlotte Elizabeth Procter Fellow, Princeton University
1958 to 1959 Nuffield Fellow, University of Bristol
1967 to 1968 NRC Senior Research Fellow (and Professeur Associé), Université de Grenoble
1985 to 1986 NSERC France-Canada Exchange Scientist, (and Professeur Associé), Université de Paris XI (Orsay)
1998 CMS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mass Spectrometry, Canadian Society for Mass Spectrometry
2000 Meloche Lecturer, University of Wisconsin
2000 Synergy Award for University-Industry Cooperation, NSERC/Conference Board of Canada
2003 CAP Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Industrial & Applied Physics, Canadian Association of Physicists
2004 Elected to Fellowship, American Physical Society
2004 ACS Field/Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry, American Chemical Society
2004 Elected to Fellowship, Royal Society of Canada
2006 Establishment of the “Ken Standing Award by the Enabling Technologies Symposium
2006 Brockhouse Award for Interdisciplinary Research, NSERC
2009 Honorary DSc, University of Manitoba
2009 Sir John William Dawson Medal, Royal Society of Canada
2010 Encana Award for Innovation, Manning Foundation

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PDF — 713 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