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Oral history interview with Christie G. Enke

  • 2013-Apr-16 – 2013-Apr-17

Oral history interview with Christie G. Enke

  • 2013-Apr-16 – 2013-Apr-17

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.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 85 pages
  • 4 h 31 m 1 s
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

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.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0895

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • July 08, 1933
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1955 Principia College BA Chemistry
1959 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

Princeton University

  • 1959 to 1961 Instructor in Chemistry
  • 1961 to 1966 Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Michigan State University

  • 1966 to 1972 Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • 1972 to 1994 Professor of Chemistry
  • 1994 to 2013 Professor Emeritus

University of New Mexico

  • 1994 to 2003 Professor of Chemistry
  • 2006 to present Professor Emeritus

Indiana University

  • 2008 to 2014 Adjunct Professor of Chemistry


Year(s) Award
1957 to 1958 DuPont Teaching Assistant, University of Illinois
1964 to 1969 Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
1974 ACS Award for Chemical Instrumentation, American Chemical Society
1981 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1982 Senior Research Fellow, Sigma Xi, Michigan State University Chapter
1989 ACS Award for Computers in Chemistry, American Chemical Society
1992 Best Paper Award, Sigma Xi, Midland Chapter
1992 Distinguished Faculty Award, Michigan State University
1993 Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry (with Richard A. Yost), American Society for Mass Spectrometry
2003 J. Calvin Giddings Award for Excellence in Education, American Chemical Society Division in Analytical Chemistry
2011 Fellow, American Chemical Society
2011 ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 1.9 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

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads