Since Sir J.J. Thomson of the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge constructed the first mass spectrometer (then called a parabola spectrograph) at the turn of the last century, mass spectrometry (MS) has become the most ubiquitous analytical technique in use today. It represents a powerful tool in the study of all substances, because it provides more information about the composition and structure of a substance from a smaller amount of sample than any other analytical technique. It is also a powerful quantitative tool. Femtograms (10 15 g) of carcinogenic pesticide residues can be quantitated and identified in foodstuffs, whereas a genetic abnormality can be characterized from mere femtomole (10 15 mol) quantities of a protein.

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