In Appreciation: Dr. Richard A. Larsen's Lifelong Dedication to Analytical Science


In the realm of analytical spectroscopy, a bright light dimmed as we bid farewell to Dr. Richard A. Larsen. Larsen, at 62 years old, surrounded by his family died in April. Larsen’s life was a testament to dedication, curiosity, and a lifelong commitment to unraveling the secrets of matter through the lens of spectroscopy.

With over four decades in the field, Larsen’s impact as an analytical chemist was significant. His work transcended borders, taking him throughout Europe and North America as an industrial consultant and educator. His deep applications knowledge, positive personality, and insights enriched the scientific community, inspiring hundreds of individuals who crossed his path. Through his published scientific papers, he became a supporter of all things spectroscopic and a guide to aspiring spectroscopists in their journey of discovery.

Originally from Glen Allen, Virginia, Larsen's journey into the world of science began in Mobridge, South Dakota. It was there that his passion for scientific exploration took root, propelling him towards a degree from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The pursuit of knowledge carried him further, culminating in a PhD in Chemistry from the University of South Carolina.

Larsen's influence resonated within scientific societies. His connection with the Coblentz Society, where he served as a Board of Managers member from 2005 to 2009, cemented his status as a cherished contributor to that organization. As chairman, leading ASTM Committee E13 on Molecular Spectroscopy and Separation Science, he demonstrated his leadership acumen, steering over 150 individuals responsible for nearly 50 standards published in the Annual Book of ASTM Standards. His contributions to ASTM Committee E13 underscored his commitment to shaping the future practice of molecular spectroscopy.

Outside the realms of ASTM International and the Coblentz Society, his involvement spanned numerous associations, including the American Chemical Society, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Sigma Xi, and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. These affiliations showcased his extensive involvement within the spectroscopy community.

Larsen started his career at Perkin Elmer in Norwalk, Connecticut, as an infrared technical and product specialist. His proficiency in analytical spectroscopy led him to roles as President of Spectral Consulting, Spectroscopy Products Manager at Jasco, Inc., Senior Raman Applications Scientist at Anton Par, and as a Technical Support Specialist at Consolidated Communications. Those that worked with Larsen agreed that he was one of those very few that truly knows his field of research broadly and deeply.

Larsen was also a gifted writer as demonstrated by his research application articles. His exploration spanned diverse subjects, from FT-IR microscopic analysis of polymer laminates to Raman analysis of embedded contaminants. His work provided valuable insights into material analysis and assisted fellow scientists to expand the boundaries of their understanding and to try new approaches.

Larsen penned multiple articles for Spectroscopy covering a diverse set of topics. In his article titled "FT-IR Microscopic Analysis of Polymer Laminate Samples Including Transmission and ATR Spectroscopy" (August 01, 2016), he delved into the intricacies of polymer laminate analysis using infrared techniques. He highlighted the potential of attenuated total reflectance (ATR) microscopy in enhancing spatial resolution for a deeper understanding of molecular composition.

In "Evaluation of Eye Shadow Compounds Using Raman Microspectroscopy" (June 01, 2016), he ventured into cosmetic analysis, demonstrating the power of Raman microspectroscopy in identifying and differentiating components within eye shadow products.

In the paper titled "Raman Analysis of Embedded Contaminants" (March 18, 2015), Larsen explored the applications of Raman spectroscopy in analyzing embedded contaminants within materials. This non-contact and non-destructive technique offered insights into the study of material properties, advancing the studies of material science.

In "Rapid Identification of Illicit and Prescription Drugs Using FT-NIR Spectroscopy" (August 01, 2008), he showcased the potential of FT-NIR spectroscopy in swiftly identifying various drug formulations, underscoring his dedication to important practical applications of spectroscopic techniques.

Finally, in "Gemstone Identification Using Raman Spectroscopy" (April 01, 2004), Larsen explored the world of precious gemstones, demonstrating how Raman microspectroscopy could provide nondestructive insights into their composition and authenticity.

As we remember Dr. Richard A. Larsen, let's raise a metaphorical toast to his dedication, enthusiasm, and knack for scientific inquiry that fueled his journey. His legacy isn't just in the papers he penned or the roles he took on; it's alive in the curious minds he sparked, and the way he brightened the world of analytical spectroscopy with his generous smile. Though he's stepped off the stage, his impact lingers on, nudging future scientists to keep exploring the captivating secrets of the molecular universe using light. Cheers to you, Dr. Larsen!

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