Announcing the Icons of Spectroscopy Laureate Series


Spectroscopy is publishing a series of feature articles highlighting the lives and careers of the most influential vibrational and atomic spectroscopists over the past 100 years. Our current technological status and progress in science has much to do with the lives, work, and discoveries of those that have gone before us. Therefore we would like to pay tribute to some of these scientists who have paved the way for those of us using modern spectroscopic methods in our research and daily work.

For this series, our Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) members, consisting of a group of distinguished individuals and thought leaders, were asked to submit a list of 5-10 names of government, industrial, or academic scientists who they would consider to be the most influential leaders and influencers during recent times. Based on the EAB responses, the editors of Spectroscopy interpedently reviewed the list and decided on the most notable individuals to include in the Icons of Spectroscopy laureate series, which will begin this January.

The list will feature notable names including Peter Griffiths, W.W. Coblentz, Gary Hieftje, Clara Craver, and more. We expect this to be a very popular series going forward and we believe it will continue. Our next article in this series will present details of the individuals having their names associated with the major awards in spectroscopy (eponyms).

A History of Vibrational Spectroscopy

Vibrational spectroscopy is a widely used analytical measurement technique that assists scientists in understanding the molecular composition of substances by analyzing the vibrations of their constituent atoms, that is, the stretching and bending frequencies of their molecules. Its roots trace back to the late 19th century when scientists like Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh), and James Clerk Maxwell laid the theoretical groundwork for the study of molecular vibrations. However, the true breakthrough came in the early 20th century with the development of infrared (IR) spectroscopy.

Modern infrared spectroscopy began with W. W. (William Weber) Coblentz, who constructed his own prism infrared spectrophotometer at Cornell University in New York, and carefully measured hundreds of spectra, resulting in his original 1905 publication (1). His initial work identified that “certain molecular groupings,” referred to as functional groups today, absorb at repeatable and specific infrared wavelengths (1,2). In 1945, the invention of the Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectrometer revolutionized the infrared spectroscopy field, enabling more precise and rapid measurements of both organic and inorganic compounds.

Raman spectroscopy, another vital branch of vibrational spectroscopy, was developed by C. V. (Chandrasekhara Venkata) Raman in 1928, earning him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 (3). C. V. Raman and his student, K. S. (Kariamanikkam Srinivasa) Krishnan, began experiments in January 1928, and named a new light scattering/fluorescence phenomenon they had observed as "modified scattering." They referred to the newly presented Compton effect as an “unmodified scattering” (4). In February, they completed their manuscript describing their discovery and submitted it to the journal Nature, which was published in March (4,5).

Vibrational spectroscopy continues to advance with the advent of new instrumentation, such as FT-IR and FT-Raman spectrometers, new sampling methods, and new data analysis techniques, leading to a deeper understanding of molecular structures and their applications in fields like chemistry, biology, and materials science.

A History of Atomic Spectroscopy

Atomic spectroscopy, a branch of analytical chemistry, has a rich history dating back to the 19th century (6). Its foundations were laid by scientists like Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen and Gustav Robert Kirchoff in the mid-1800s, using their new technique termed atomic spectral analysis to discover the elements cesium and rubidium. Prior to their development of this technique in 1859 they had discovered that each element has unique spectral lines useful for identification and quantification. They further developed the spectroscope, which enabled the observation of spectral lines emitted by excited atoms when subjected to high temperatures or electrical discharges. This marked the birth of flame atomic emission spectroscopy (AES), atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) (7–9), and the use of spectroscopy for astrophysics.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the discovery of new atomic spectroscopy techniques, including atomic fluorescence, spark atomic emission, and arc atomic emission spectroscopy. The advent of spectrographs and photographic plates improved spectral analysis (10).

In the mid-20th century, the development of inductively coupled plasma (ICP) and other modern atomic spectroscopy techniques, such as combined ICP with mass spectrometry (ICP–MS), enhanced the sensitivity, precision, and applicability of this measurement field. Today, atomic spectroscopy plays a critical role in environmental analysis, materials science, and various areas of chemical analysis (11).

New materials, components, and instrumentation, innovative sample preparation, and refined data analysis techniques are rapidly advancing the modern field of atomic spectroscopy (12).

About Spectroscopy

Now in its 38th year, Spectroscopy’s mission has been to provide thoughtful, relevant, and informative content—peer-reviewed science, thought-leader contributed articles, and expert columns and tutorials in the fields of atomic and vibrational spectroscopy using UV-vis, Fl, Raman, IR, NIR, THz, NMR, HSI, ICP-OES, ICP-MS, LA-ICP-MS, AAS, AES, LIBS, and XRF, as well as chemometrics and artificial intelligence (machine learning). Spectroscopy has a print circulation of more than 20,000 readers, and is indexed in the Web of Science, Journal Citation Reports, Scopus, EBSCOhost, and CAS Source Index (CASSI) Search Tool, and Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system. Spectroscopy link is: (

References and Further Reading

  1. Sommer, A. J. Infrared Spectroscopy. Spectroscopy 2020, Special Issues-09-02-2020, 12–15. (accessed 2023-10-30).
  2. Coblentz, W. W. Investigations of Infra-red Spectra.. , 1905, (Vol. 35). Carnegie institution of Washington. (accessed 2023-10-30).
  3. Nobel Prize in Physics 1930. (accessed 2023-10-30).
  4. Raman, C. V.; Krishnan, K. S. A New Type of Secondary Radiation. Nature 1928, 121 (3048): 501–502. DOI:10.1038/121501c0. S2CID 4128161
  5. C.V. Raman The Raman Effect – Landmark. American Chemical Society, Archived from the original on 4 March 2020. (accessed 2023-10-30).
  6. A Timeline of Atomic Spectroscopy. Spectroscopy 2006, 21 (10) Online: (accessed 2023-10-30).
  7. Winefordner, J. D.; Fitzgerald, J. J.; Omenetto, N. Review of Multielement Atomic Spectroscopic Methods. Appl. Spectrosc. 1975, 29 (5), 369–383. (accessed 2023-10-30).
  8. Koirtyohann, S. R. A History of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy. Spectrochim Acta Part B At Spectrosc. 1980, 35 (11-12), 663–670. DOI: 10.1016/0584-8547(80)80006-1
  9. Koirtyohann, S. R. A History of Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy from an Academic Perspective. Anal. Chem. 1991, 63 (21), 1024A–1031A. DOI: 10.1021/ac00021a001
  10. Hieftje, G.M., 2000. Atomic Emission Spectroscopy—It Lasts and Lasts and Lasts. J. Chem. Educ. 2000, 77 (5), 577. DOI: 10.1021/ed077p577
  11. Krzciuk, K. Intelligent Analysis of Samples by Semiquantitative Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) Technique: A Review. Crit. Rev. Anal. Chem. 2016, 46 (4), 284–290. DOI: 10.1080/10408347.2015.1053106
  12. Evans, E. H.; Pisonero, J.; Smith, C. M.; and Taylor, R. N. Atomic Spectrometry Update: Review of Advances in Atomic Spectrometry and Related Techniques. J. Anal. At. Spectrom. 2021, 36 (5), 868–891. DOI: 10.1039/D1JA90016A
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