Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The mass spectrometry wars continue

O. David Sparkman (C&EN, Aug. 27, page 3) is correct that there is “no such thing” as the term “mass spectroscopy.” Paul J. Karol (C&EN, Oct. 1, page 2) is correct to refer to the International Union of Pure & Applied Chemistry but unfortunately referenced the 1991 recommendations in Pure & Applied Chemistry (DOI: 10.1351/pac199163101541). This older document has been superseded by 2013 recommendations (Pure Appl. Chem., DOI: 10.1351/pac-rec-06-04-06), which state on page 1565, “Mass spectroscopy is an obsolete synonym for mass spectrometry that should not be used to avoid confusion with spectroscopies in which the measured quantity is absorption or emission of electromagnetic radiation.” 
Unfortunately, the usually reliable IUPAC Gold Book ( has not been updated with the most recent recommendations and still refers to the obsolete 1991 entry for mass “spectroscopy.” Hopefully this valuable resource will be updated soon. 
Charles Lucy
Edmonton, Alberta
Never argue semantics with an analytical chemist, it seems.  


  1. Give 'em hell, Chuck! And to think, he's a chromatographer...

  2. Readers may enjoy one of Chucks earlier sermons,

    How to succeed in analytical chemistry: a bibliography of resources from the literature
    Talanta 51 (2000) 1125–1147 doi:10.1016/s0039-9140(00)00284-8

    Technical excellence is necessary to succeed in a career in analytical chemistry. However there are many other skills
    necessary for success for which analysts receive no formal training. Talanta has had a tradition of publishing articles
    on practical aspects of our profession, such as how to write a paper in spectrophotometry or on ion selective
    electrodes. This article culls the literature for advice on how to purchase equipment, how (and when) to write a
    manuscript, how to review an article, how to give oral, poster and computer presentations, and how to get a job in
    analytical chemistry.

  3. My PhD advisor would have cut us off at the knees had we used the term "mass spectroscopy". She was also not fond of the term "daughter ion"

  4. Split the difference and use mass spectrophotometry.

  5. How about "computer-generated visual representation of a mass-and-magnetic field-dependent phenomenon"

  6. I think it's fair to point out that the original term preferred for tandem MS experiments was "particle spectroscopy" because you were measuring energy, not mass directly