Christie G. Enke was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1933. While attending high school, he worked as a stage manager and took electronics classes at Dunwoody Industrial Institute (now Dunwoody College of Technology). He attended Principia College and there became interested in electrochemistry through an electroplating project he worked on between his junior and senior years. He selected the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for graduate school to work with Herbert A. Laitinen. There he assisted in developing Howard V. Malmstadt’s electronics course, which he loved, and worked on his thesis with Laitinen about electrolytic formation and dissolution of oxide films on platinum. Upon graduation, Enke took a teaching job at Princeton University, but soon realized he would not be there for long since the chemistry department was phasing out analytical chemistry. However, he stayed busy at Princeton and also completed some consulting work with Standard Oil and American Cyanamid on the side. After six years at Princeton, he transitioned to Michigan State University.
At Michigan State, Enke got involved in automated instrumentation and later mass spectrometry when he had problems finding good academic jobs for his electrochemistry graduates. On the way home from a conference, Enke started talking with his student, Richard A. Yost, about a problem, and they came up with a plan to build a tandem quadrupole instrument. They started collaborating with James D. Morrison to achieve efficient ion fragmentation between the quadrupole mass analyzers. The triple quadrupole mass spectrometer was patented, and its success quickly spread through the mass spectrometry community. From there, due to curious results of a student’s experiment using electrospray with a metal ion, crown ether mixture, Enke got interested in the electrospray process. He then developed the equilibrium partition model of ion evaporation. By that time, he had transitioned to the University of New Mexico after retiring from Michigan State. At UNM, he continued his work on tandem time-of-flight mass spectrometry and invented the technique of distance-of-flight mass spectrometry. Near the end of the interview, Enke talks about his interest in natural philosophy stimulated by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and his thoughts on facts and explanations, explanatory versus empirical lobes of the scientific method, re-envisioning the chemistry curriculum, and the field of mass spectrometry.
Hilary Domush was a Program Associate in the Center for Oral History at CHF from 2007–2015. Previously, she earned a BS in chemistry from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 2003. She then completed an MS in chemistry and an MA in history of science both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her graduate work in the history of science focused on early nineteenth-century chemistry in the city of Edinburgh, while her work in the chemistry was in a total synthesis laboratory. At CHF, she worked on projects such as the Pew Biomedical Scholars, Women in Chemistry, Atmospheric Science, and Catalysis.
Sarah L. Hunter-Lascoskie earned a BA in history at the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in public history at Temple University. Her research has focused on the ways in which historical narratives are created, shaped, and presented to diverse groups. Before Sarah joined CHF, she was the Peregrine Arts Samuel S. Fels research intern and Hidden City project coordinator. Sarah worked both in the Center for Oral History and the Institute for Research at CHF and led projects that connected oral history and public history, producing a number of online exhibits that used oral histories, archival collections, and other materials. She also contributed to CHF’s Periodic Tabloid and Distillations.
See our FAQ page to learn how to cite an oral history.