Editorial. Teaching of Instrumental Analysis - Analytical Chemistry

Editorial. Teaching of Instrumental Analysis. Walter J. Murphy. Anal. Chem. , 1956, 28 (1), pp 1–1. DOI: 10.1021/ac60109a604. Publication Date: Janu...
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A N A L Y T I C A L CH EM1S T R Y WALTER J. MURPHY, Editorial Director

Teaching of Instrumental Analysis


"Quite generally o ~ i raims should be to provide a thorough THE JIinneapolis (fall) meeting of the A ~ H I C A S education in the theoretical fundament~alsof methods of CHEMICAL SOCIETY. I. 11.Kolthoff of the University of with emphasis on the poseibilit'ies and limitations of the methods . . . From frequent requests for recommendation of Ph.D.'s n h o are specialists in spectroscopy, polarograpliy. etv., it is evident that some intluati,ies are .st,illlaboring under tlie niisconcept'ion that \\-e piuvide education for specialists in certain techniques. Our etlucational philosophy is opposed to suvh training. because n-e teach analytical chemistry as a science :md not only as a technique . . ." These and other thoughts espressrtl l ~ yDI. Kolthoff in his pnpei, are ones that leatlei~in bot,li academic and industrial rirc4les \\-auld endorse \\-liolelieartedly. It niight be said, then, K h a t in the point of emphasizing them? 11-e t,liink it very importmt periodic*ally to revien- basic ohjectives. There is a strong tendency in tliie day :ml age to *tress a p p l i e d rather than the brtsic, funtkiniental cmicepts. I t is relatively easy for a rollege o r university t,cJ let itself he used by industry to train technicians. I t is ~.elativelyeasy revie\\- of to tlrift into this pattern unless there is R pei~iotlic~ \\-hat fac3t'oi.s are important in the ti,aining of professional :Innlysts. It is our contention that the training of' the tec*Iinician essentinll:. is the responsibility of intlusti.y o r , perhaps, t'voyear svhools for technicians. Definitely this responsibility should not be taken on by colleges and universities and most c.ei,tninly not at the graduate leTel. N o t e and more we are \\-itnessing in the field of analysis :I s1i:ity line of deniarcat'ion betiyeen the professional and sub~)rofersional. This trend \vi11 gro\\- as the field of analytical clieiiiisti,y becomes more and more dependent on a wide variety of scient,ific disciplines. The Iiinfessional reputation of the analytical chemist is inipi'oving very rapid:,. l\lucah of thin change is due to the fact that management) :it long last is ctoniing to recognize the distinction l~etweenthe capabilities of the professional and the suhptdessional in the analytical laboratory.

Minnesota presented a brief paper on the subject "Instrumental Methods in -4nalytical Curricula," so rich with ideas that we \\-ant to present a t least some of them to our readers. In his opening paragraph he refutes the idea that instrumental analysis is something relatively new. "Instrumental methods of analysis is a new name for a very old subject. I n quantitative analysis we niake use of properties, be they chemical, physical, or biochemical, which can be measured quantitatively. The measurements are riiade ivith an instrument and therefore i t is no overstatement to claim that instrumental nietliocls of analysis is a subject as old as quantitative analysis. Insti,umental methods like those involving a spectrograph, galvanometer. resistance, conductance cell, gas buret, electroscope, and spectrophotoiiietei.. " have been practiced for in:iny years Dr. Kolthoff recognizes. :is all of us (lo) the reasons for tlie phenomenal progress and advance of instrumentation. "Instruments are now being made available or are available which allow the determination of a property in considerably less time and very frequently with a greater accuracy than has been possible with the older types of instrument . . .'J One of the great dangers that Dr. Kolthoff fears is an attempt to use the college and university for the training of technicians. "Even if one of the main aims of modern instrumentation, that of automation, \yere fulfilled, \\-e still would continue to teach the theoretical and esperimental fundamentals involved in tlie nieasurenient of :I property. It is not a function of a univei,sity to educate skilled technicians. The student should be provided with a thorough understanding of the theoretical fundanientals and be iiinde familiar with the principles involved in the actual measurementsi!but the emphasis should be on the fornier. A coui'se in erpwitnental techniques alone without theoretical fundamentals does not belong in a university curriculum . . .