Peter Griffiths: Icon of Infrared Spectroscopy

SpectroscopyFebruary 2024
Volume 39
Issue 2
Pages: 32–35

Spectroscopy is publishing a series of feature articles highlighting the lives and careers of the most influential spectroscopists over the past 100 years. These individuals were selected by our Editorial Advisory Board and team of editors to represent the leading figures in spectroscopy over the century. Our second featured Icon of Spectroscopy is Peter R. Griffiths.

Peter Griffiths was born and raised in England, spending the first 25 years of his life there. His formal education includes a BA in 1964 and DPhil in physical chemistry in 1967, both at Oxford University. After graduating, Griffiths moved to Maryland and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Maryland from 1967 to 1969 under the supervision of the iconic Ellis R. Lippincott. After a brief industrial career with leading infrared (IR) technology companies, such as Digilab in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Sadtler Research Labs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he joined the faculty of Ohio University in 1972, reaching the rank of Distinguished Professor. After ten years, he moved to the University of California, Riverside before accepting the chairmanship of the chemistry department of the University of Idaho, from which he retired in 2008. As of 2008, Griffiths had entered status as professor and Chair Emeritus at the University of Idaho, and as of 2014, as Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah.

Peter Griffiths: Icon of Infrared Spectroscopy

Peter Griffiths: Icon of Infrared Spectroscopy

Griffiths has an impressive record of over 320 refereed publications, 14 books (three authored and 11 edited), 55 book chapters, one issued patent, four national committees served on, seven editorial boards, multiple named lectureships, and many of the most prestigious awards in spectroscopy. His impact has extended to mentoring many doctoral students and scientists over his years as a professor, lecturer, and short course instructor. Former students and collaborators, like Andrew Weakley, have made comments related to Griffith’s influence on their careers.

“He pretty much made my career at this point in a big way. The reason why I have a consulting business is because of Peter, and the reason why I landed a postdoc at UC Davis at the Air Quality Research Center is because of Peter,” Weakley said. “So thank you so much, Peter. We appreciate all that you’ve done for us.”

Griffiths’ primary focus lies in analytical vibrational spectroscopy, notably in Fourier transform IR spectroscopy (FT-IR), supplemented by occasional investigations into Raman spectroscopy and gas, liquid, and supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC). His research group has delved into diverse areas within this field, including diffuse reflection (DR) spectroscopy, open-path atmospheric monitoring, and the integration of FT-IR spectrometers with different chromatographs such as gas chromatography (GC), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and SFC.

Among Griffith’s trademarks are his books on the subject of FT-IR, which have become the gold standard of FT-IR treatises. His first authored book on the subject, Chemical Infrared Fourier Transform Spectroscopy, was published in 1975 (1). His second edited work, Transform Techniques in Chemistry, was published in 1978 (2), and his most well-recognized book on FT-IR, coauthored with Jim de Haseth, is titled Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry (3).

“In our group, it’s referred to as ‘the Bible’ that every student reads,” said Rohit Bhargava at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, speaking at the SciX conference. “At Illinois, when we get promoted from assistant to associate professor, the library asks us for one book that has had a transformative influence on our lives. They buy that book in honor of that person getting promoted, and they place a little plaque. If you go to the University of Illinois library, there’s a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry book with a little plaque in it that tells you why it’s there in that library.”

Another highly impactful publication is the five-volume Handbook of Vibrational Spectroscopy edited by Griffiths and John Chalmers (4). The five volumes comprising this work consist of 46 sections, 239 chapters, 350 authors from 250 institutions, and 3572 pages, providing a cross-section of the knowledge and insight of many of the world’s most experienced researchers in vibrational spectroscopy (5).

Among Griffith’s honors and awards are: The Coblentz Award in Molecular Spectroscopy (1975), Distinguished Professor, Ohio University (1978), Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh Award (1985), New York SAS Gold Medal in Spectroscopy (1995), Fritz Prëgl Medal of Austrian Society for Analytical Chemistry (1995), University of Idaho Award for Excellence in Research or Creative Activity (1995), Honorary Membership, Society for Applied Spectroscopy (2001), Bomem Michelson Award in Molecular Spectroscopy (2003), Gerald S. Birth Award for Outstanding Work in Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (2004), Distinguished Faculty Award, University of Idaho College of Science (2006), Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellowship (2006), Erskine Fellow, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (2008), Anachem Award in Analytical Spectroscopy (2012), an Honorary DSc from the University of Idaho (2018), and the Ellis R. Lippincott Award in Molecular Spectroscopy (2023).

The Lippincott Award is a fitting, sunset tribute to the starry career of Griffiths and was awarded at last year’s SciX conference in Sparks, Nevada. Griffiths first met Lippincott when he was a graduate student in “Tommy” Thomson’s laboratory at Oxford which was attended by the major researchers in IR spectroscopy at the time, including not only Lippincott but also Richard (Dick) Lord.

“Since I am now 81 years of age, and I retired over 15 years ago, this award will not benefit me professionally to any great extent. On the other hand, from a personal standpoint it is tremendously gratifying,” said Griffiths upon receiving the honor. “I believe that I am the only Lippincott Awardee to have worked in his laboratory, and I learned a great deal from my interaction with him.”

“As is the case for many week-long conferences, Wednesday afternoon was free and my fellow ‘gopher,’ Roger Lake, and I were asked to play a game of croquet with Lord and Lippincott. One year later, Roger was a post-doc in Dick Lord’s lab at MIT, and I was in a similar position in Ellis’s lab at the University of Maryland. Learning how a successful scientist operated by observation of Ellis Lippincott was critical to my career,” Griffiths said (6).

Griffiths has served as president of both the Coblentz Society and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. He served more than 30 years with the journal Applied Spectroscopy as an Associate Editor from 1981 to 2009, the Editor-in-Chief from 2009 to 2012, and the Editor from 2012 to 2018. Griffiths has been associated as an editor with other leading journals in analytical chemistry and spectroscopy, including Spectroscopy and Spectral Analysis (China) (1995–2012), Spectrochimica Acta (1992–2008), Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry (Germany) (1998–2010), Journal of Analytical Sciences (Japan) (1995–2005), Analytical Chemistry (1987–1989), and Energy and Fuels (1988–1991).

Although Griffiths has published many papers in Applied Spectroscopy (English Language), he also has published in the following journals (in alphabetical order): Advances in Chromatography, Aerosol Science and Technology, Annali di Chimica (Italian Journal of Analytical Chemistry), Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, American Pharmaceutical Review, Applied Optics, Applied Spectroscopy (Chinese Language), Applied Spectroscopy (Japanese Language), Applied Spectroscopy Reviews, Chromatographia, Computer Enhanced Spectroscopy, Energy & Fuels, Fresenius Journal of Analytical Chemistry, Fuel, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Institute of Petroleum (London), International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, Journal of Catalysis, Journal of Chromatographic Science, Journal of Chromatography, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health, Journal of High Resolution Chromatography, Journal of Molecular Structure, Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy, Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Langmuir, Microchemical Journal, Mikrochimica Acta, Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, Optical Remote Sensing for Environmental and Process Monitoring, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Fourier Transform Spectroscopy, Proceedings of the Royal Society (London), Proceedings of the Society of Analytical Chemistry, Progress in Fourier Transform Spectroscopy, Spectrochimica Acta, Spectrochimica Acta (Far Infrared Spectra), Spectroscopy, Spectroscopy and Spectral Analysis, Vacuum, and Vibrational Spectroscopy.

Over the past 30 years, Griffiths has made many friends, connections, and collaborations having taught a week-long course on the interpretation of IR and Raman spectra at Bowdoin College, Maine. He has acted as a consultant to multiple companies, law firms, and technical organizations over his active years. His legacy and mentorship will be certain to continue for several more generations.

Research Impact

Book Chapters

A review of Griffith’s CV and publications list demonstrates the broad range of research explored during his career (7), and his impact as a scientist is evidenced by the 55 book chapters spanning various aspects of spectroscopy and analytical chemistry.

A summary of some key themes in his book chapter publications:

  • Spectroscopy Data Processing (2017): Griffiths addresses the critical aspect of data processing in spectroscopy, emphasizing its significance in the interpretation and analysis of spectral information.
  • Gas Chromatography/Infrared Spectroscopy (2016): Discussing the synergy between these two topics, Griffiths explores their combined applications.
  • Infrared Spectroscopy (2016): Providing a comprehensive overview, this contribution to the Encyclopedia of Analytical Science highlights the role and significance of infrared spectroscopy in analytical research.
  • Infrared Mapping Below the Diffraction Limit (2014): Delving into advanced techniques, Griffiths explores this topic by showcasing his engagement with cutting-edge developments.
  • Surface-Enhanced Infrared Absorption (2013): Griffiths’ investigation of this technique contributes to the understanding of this specialized area within spectroscopy.
  • Raman Spectroscopic Studies of Explosives and Precursors (2012): Collaborating with other authors, Griffiths explores the applications and instrumentation of Raman spectroscopy in forensic science, emphasizing its role in studying explosives.
  • Detection of Melamine in Foodstuffs (2010): Griffiths contributes to the understanding of vibrational spectroscopy’s role in food science.
  • Introduction to the Theory and Instrumentation for Vibrational Spectroscopy (2010): Griffiths provides foundational knowledge on vibrational spectroscopy, outlining theories and instrumentation critical for this analytical technique.
  • Sampling Techniques and Fiber-Optic Probes (2010): Griffiths collaborates on the exploration of these techniques in vibrational spectroscopy, addressing practical aspects of data collection.
  • Continuum and Discontinuum Theories of Diffuse Reflection (2007): Contributing to the Handbook of Near-Infrared Spectroscopy, Griffiths explores theories of diffuse reflection, adding to the theoretical foundations of spectroscopy.
  • Dynamic Infrared Linear Dichroism of Polymers (2007): In a collaborative effort, Griffiths adds to the understanding of this topic as it relates to vibrational spectroscopy of polymers.
  • History, Trends, and Prognostications (2007): Summarizing historical evolution and future trends, Griffiths provides insights into the development and potential future directions of vibrational spectroscopy.
  • Infrared Spectroscopy (2005): Contributing to the Encyclopedia of Analytical Science, Griffiths provides a comprehensive chapter on infrared spectroscopy, emphasizing its analytical significance.

These summaries highlight the diversity and depth of Griffiths’ contributions to spectroscopy, ranging from fundamental principles to advanced applications in various scientific domains. His extensive body of work reflects a commitment to advancing the understanding and application of spectroscopic techniques.

Research Papers

Griffiths’ research papers encompass an equally broad spectrum of topics, predominantly centered around the versatile applications and advancements in spectroscopy, with a specific focus on FT-IR spectroscopy. One overarching theme explores the application of spectroscopy in environmental monitoring, where papers examine the utilization of FT-IR to monitor and quantify diverse environmental factors such as diesel particulate matter, silica in mine dust, greenhouse gases, atmospheric ammonia, methane, and nitrous oxide.

In the realm of mining and metallurgy, Griffiths’ research extends to the characterization and monitoring of materials, including coal dust. Papers within this theme focus on quantifying elemental and organic carbon, estimating α-quartz, and measuring silica. Another significant area involves the application of spectroscopy in chemistry and material science, with papers exploring topics such as the synthesis of graphene paper, electroless deposition of metals, surface-enhanced spectroscopy, and kinetic studies of chemical reactions.

Biographical and historical perspectives are presented in select papers, offering insights into figures like Norman Sheppard, the impact of papers in the journal Applied Spectroscopy, and the early days of FT-IR spectroscopy. Griffiths also contributes to the pharmaceutical and medical fields, with research papers focusing on mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectroscopy’s application in the pharmaceutical industry and the estimation of α-quartz in respirable coal mine dust.

Methodological and instrumentation developments are highlighted, covering advancements in FT-IR spectroscopy techniques such as ultra-rapid scanning, open-path FT-IR, and applications of neural networks. Chemical and physical studies are explored, involving investigations into the catalytic behavior of silver nanoparticles, the synthesis of graphene paper, and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).

Instrumentation and data processing are significant themes, with papers addressing various aspects of these topics as they relate to spectroscopy, including discussions on noise sources, baseline correction algorithms, and the characterization of silicones.

Examining the titles of research papers further reveals additional themes. Noteworthy topics include infrared spectroelectrochemical analysis of adsorbed hexacyanoferrate species, surface and solution species in the ferricyanide/ferrocyanide redox couple, near-infrared (NIR) spectrometry, surface-enhanced infrared absorption spectrometry, Raman spectra of explosive materials, capillary SFC/FT-IR, step-scan FT-IR spectrometry, SFC/Fourier transform spectrometry, open-path FT-IR spectrometers, and vibrational spectroscopic studies of asbestos, transite, and concrete.

The remaining papers cover a diverse range of subjects, from noise sources in step-scan FT-IR spectrometry to baseline correction algorithms, automated baseline correction, characterization of silicones, feed-forward neural networks, and various applications of FT-IR in a variety of different fields.

Griffiths’ extensive body of research reflects a rich diversity of topics within the field of spectroscopy, with a predominant emphasis on infrared and Raman spectroscopy, electrochemical analysis, and the integration of different analytical techniques. The research spans applications in environmental monitoring, mining, chemistry, material science, pharmaceuticals, and medical fields, showcasing the interdisciplinary nature of Griffiths’ contributions to the scientific and spectroscopic communities.

Some material related to summarizing the subject matter of 320 refereed publications of Griffiths was written with the help of artificial intelligence and has been carefully edited to ensure accuracy and clarity.

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