Mikhail Tswett invented chromatography method

Mikhail Tswett – inventor of chromatography method

Mikhail Tswett Biography & Contributions

Mikhail Tswett was a Russian botanist born on March 21, 1872 – died on June 26, 1919. He invented the chromatography method in the year of 1906.

Tswett invented chromatography in 1900 during his research on plant pigments. He used liquid-adsorption column chromatography with calcium carbonate as adsorbent and petrol ether/ethanol mixtures as eluent to separate chlorophylls and carotenoids.

Tswett’s first study towards solvents action on chlorophyll involves - Alcohol-petroleum ether solutions of chlorophyll were digested in a flask with several strips of filter paper and the solvent was distilled off in a vacuum; by this treatment, the pigment was taken up by the paper. The dry green paper now behaved toward solvents exactly like the green leaves, and pure petroleum ether took up only the carotin, while the addition of alcohol produced decolonization of the paper at once.

The phenomena mentioned at the beginning of his research paper, which still remained puzzling, therefore depended on adsorption of the pigments, on the mechanical, molecular affinity of the substances for the chloroplast stroma which could indeed be overcome by alcohol, ether, etc., but not by petroleum hydrocarbons. However, if the pigments were removed from the sphere of molecular forces, as, for example, by cooking or warming the tissues, which, as is well known, forces little green droplets from the chloroplasts, then these pigments dissolved easily in petroleum ether and the dark green extract was obtained.

It follows from the foregoing that it is impossible for chlorophyll to be enclosed in the chloroplasts in the form of microscopically definable grana and it must be that the grana themselves possess an insoluble adsorbing substrate. Moreover, the grana theory is not well grounded micrographically. It was mentioned above that the chlorophyll pigments (except for carotin) bound to the filter paper from the petroleum ether were held firmly by an adsorption force.

As expected, these pigments were taken from the petroleum ether solution by the filter paper. However, not only cellulose but all solid bodies insoluble in petroleum hydrocarbons adsorb chlorophyll and, if used in finely powdered condition, decolorize petroleum ether partly or completely. From this point of view, he had studied more than a hundred substances belonging to different chemical systems and always with essentially the same result.


1] https://web.lemoyne.edu/giunta/tswett.html

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