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Martin, Archer (John Porter)

chromatography paper mixtures staff

(1910–2002) British biochemist: co-discoverer of paper chromatography.

Martin graduated in Cambridge in 1932 and took his PhD there in biochemistry in 1938, working on vitamins (this included looking after 30 pigs, unaided, in work on pellagra). Then he joined the staff of the Wool Industries Research Association at Leeds. There, working with R L M Synge (1914–94) on the problem of separating complex mixtures of amino acids into their components, he developed the technique of partition chromatography. By 1944 the most familiar form had been devised by Martin; it combined with brilliant simplicity both the partition and adsorption methods. This is paper chromatography, in which a small amount of sample applied as a spot to a piece of paper is caused to move and to separate into its components by allowing a solvent front to move across the paper. The method is simple and has been of great value to chemists in analysing a variety of complex non-volatile mixtures; it is especially useful in biochemistry.

From 1948 Martin was on the staff of the Medical Research Council and from 1953 he worked particularly on gas-liquid chromatography. This separates volatile mixtures by means of a column of absorbent (such as silicone oil) on an inert support. Again, the method has proved a hugely successful analytical technique. Martin and Synge shared the 1952 Nobel Prize.

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