Sir Alan Walsh. 19 December 1916 — 3 August 1998

Peter Hannaford

Elected F.R.S. 1969


Alan Walsh was the originator and developer of the atomic absorption method of chemical analysis, which revolutionized quantitative analysis in the 1950s and 1960s. Atomic absorption provided a quick, easy, accurate and highly sensitive method of determining the concentrations of more than sixty-five of the elements, rendering traditional wet-chemical methods obsolete. The method has found important application worldwide in areas as diverse as medicine, agriculture, mineral exploration, metallurgy, food analysis, biochemistry and environmental control, and has been described as ‘the most significant advance in chemical analysis this [the twentieth] century‘ (Wark 1968).

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