An Erratum for this article has been published in Journal of Mass Spectrometry 36(9) 2001, 1074
The beginning of the twentieth century saw the development of new theories of acidity and basicity, which are currently well accepted. The thermochemistry of proton transfer in the absence of solvent attracted much interest during this period, because of the fundamental importance of the process. Nevertheless, before the 1950s, few data were available, either from lattice energy evaluations or from calculations using the emerging molecular orbital theory. Advances in mass spectrometry during the last 40 years allowed studies of numerous systems with better accuracy. Thousands of accurate gas-phase acidities or basicities are now available, for simple atomic and molecular systems and for large biomolecules. The intrinsic effect of structure on the Brønsted basic or acidic properties of molecules and the influence of solvents have been unravelled. In this tutorial, the basics of the thermodynamic principles involved are given, and the mass spectrometric techniques are briefly reviewed. Advances in the design and measurements of gas-phase superacids and superbases are described. Recent studies concerning biomolecules are also evoked. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.