The Notion of atomic absorption spectroscopy came to CSIRO scientist Alan Walsh in a flash of inspiration because he had been gardening at his Melbourne home. This resulted in an invention that has since been tagged as one of the most crucial accomplishments in chemical analysis. AAS allows the measurement of extremely small Amounts of components and is routinely utilized in medicine, manufacturing, mining, environmental monitoring and labs across the world. Not only has AAS saved lives and made business More effective, but the commercialisation of the technology resulted in the arrival of the scientific instrument industry in Australia’ an industry worth more than $1 billion annually today.
For decades Alan Walsh, a tall and wiry Lancashire-born physicist of oceanic moods, had weathered despair in looking for an answer to an issue that had conquered other scientists since the previous century. It was the issue of how small concentrations of metallic components could be measured more precisely by spectroscopy. The standard procedure in atomic absorption spectroscopy was to vaporize a component and gauge the energy emitted as light by its excited atoms. On a Sunday morning in March 1952, Walsh was Working off his frustration at the backyard of his house in the Melbourne buyside suburb of Brighton. Suddenly in one showing flash of thought, something he was unable to rationalize afterwards, he had the answer. He hurried inside dirt on his shAAS, and called his working colleague John Shelton.
It saved the life of a young boy that went into violent convulsions after being admitted to a Sydney hospital with severe burns. Atomic absorption tests showed the boy had suffered a crucial loss of magnesium. Given doses of the component, he recovered. His picture had a particular place in Walsh’s office. Other nuclear absorption tests solved the riddle of the crazed Minamata cats that were diving into the sea off Japan. The discovery they had eaten mercury-polluted fish stored tens of thousands of individuals from crippling illness and passing. Similar evaluations clarified the soaring delinquency rate in Sudbury, Ontario, showing a lead-smelting plant has been contaminating the town. Atomic absorption has detected tainted baked beans during canning and helped find tremendous mineral deposits in Western Australia. And Walsh’s flash of inspiration wasn’t an ending but a beginning, of hundreds of hours in his lab bench and years through which he had periods of profound despondency because his discovery fulfilled almost universal indifference.