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Tswett, Michel,

chromatography column plant tsvet

also Mikhail Tsvet [tsvet] (1872–1919) Russian botanist: developed the technique of chromatography.

The son of a Russian father and an Italian mother, Tswett was educated in Switzerland and held posts in Poland and Russia. His research was mainly on plant pigments and it was to separate these that he effectively introduced chromatography, although as with most inventions, precursors of success can be traced. In 1903 Tswett separated his plant leaf colours (chlorophyll a and b, carotenes and xanthophylls) by passing the mixture, dissolved in light petroleum, down a column of powdered chalk. Distinct colour bands developed in the column and could be easily separated with a knife. By the 1930s and especially after the Second World War this method of column chromatography (usually using alumina) and later its variants – notably ion-exchange, thin layers, paper chromatography and gas-liquid chromatography (both the last due to ) – became essential chemical methods. Chromatography did for chemical analysis what the computer did for calculation.

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