Historical Development

V. R. Meyer, EMPA, St. Gallen, Switzerland Copyright © 2000 Academic Press

Tswett's papers on chromatography were published at the beginning of the 20th century but there was little interest in the technique for several decades. It was not until the 1930s that a growing number of researchers used liquid chromatography (LC) in open columns for the successful separation of complex mixtures of natural compounds, and it was only in the 1970s that LC found widespread use in its instru-mentalized form. Over this time it developed:

• from a simple set-up to sophisticated instrumentation with computer assistance

• from the separation of coloured compounds which did not need an instrument for detection to an impressive variety of detectors which allow quanti-tation of analytes in the picomol range and lower

• from adsorption chromatography as the single option to a large number of varied separation principles (adsorption, reversed-phase, polar bonded phase, ion exchange, enantioselective, size exclusion and affinity chromatography)

• from trial-and-error to a deep understanding of theory, separation mechanisms and method development

• from open-column separations to high performance, closed-column chromatography

• from nonacceptance by the greatest scientists of the time to a method of the upmost importance.

It is difficult to name the most important participants in this development; exceptions are Martin and Synge, who published a paper in 1941 that can be looked upon as the beginning of modern chromatography. A large number of other scientists were responsible for various improvements in LC: Table 1 lists the most important historical papers in the development of the technique.

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