The birth and growth of spectrochemistry are reviewed on the occasion of its centennial. The origin of spectrochemistry is found in the two classical memoirs published by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff a century ago in Poggendorff’s Annalen, in which they gave the first definite and general answer to the question as to whether the bright lines in the spectrum of a glowing gas are dependent exclusively on its chemical composition. We find there also the foundations of astrophysics and a report on the first discovery of a new chemical element by spectral analysis (cesium).

Short biographical sketches of Bunsen and Kirchhoff are given, and the major conclusions of their two famous memoirs are cited. The growth of this new method of chemical analysis is then briefly traced to this centennial year, when such analyses are already being widely made in science and technology by electronic automation.

© 1960 Optical Society of America

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