John B. Fenn

Facts

John B. Fenn

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

John B. Fenn

Born: 15 June 1917, New York, NY, USA

Died: 10 December 2010, Richmond, VA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Prize motivation: "for their development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules."

Prize share: 1/4

Work

When electrically charged molecules - ions - are accelerated by an electrical field, their speed depends on the ion's charge and weight. By measuring the time it takes for the ions to pass a certain distance, the incidence of different molecules in a test can be determined. It was impossible, however, to use this technique on large molecules, such as proteins, before large ions could be produced in gaseous form. In 1988 John Fenn showed that when a test sample is sprayed with an electrical field, small charged drops are formed, and when the water evaporates, ions in gaseous form remain.

To cite this section
MLA style: John B. Fenn – Facts. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Sat. 22 Sep 2018. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/2002/fenn/facts/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.