Dedication to Dr. Robert Kinnear Boyd


It is both an honor and a pleasure for us to prepare a dedication for this Special Issue to mark the retirement of Dr. Robert Kinnear Boyd as Editor-in-Chief of Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. Dr. Boyd has enjoyed a busy and fruitful career in Chemistry for some 43 years. Following a rigorous formal education at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, Dr. Boyd was appointed, in 1962, to a Postdoctoral Fellowship, at Ottawa, in the Photochemistry Section of the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC). Except for a brief period of two years when he was employed as a Research Officer at the Central Electricity Research Laboratories in Leatherhead, UK, he has spent his entire professional life in Canada. Dr. Boyd returned to Canada in 1966 whereupon he took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the laboratory of Professor George Burns at the University of Toronto. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor in 1968 at the University of Guelph where he taught for 18 years. In 1986, he was appointed as a Research Officer and Manager at the NRCC where he served in a number of scientific and administrative positions for the next 19 years.

It is of interest to comment here on the connectivity between these two aspects of Dr. Boyd's career. In the late 1970s, Vacuum Generators of Manchester, UK, had developed, with the collaboration of Professor John H. Beynon, FRS, a tandem mass spectrometer of reverse geometry wherein an electrostatic sector (E) was preceded by a magnetic sector (B). This double-focusing instrument was constructed with zero α- and β-errors; hence it was marketed as a ZAB-2F-BE tandem mass spectrometer. While the significance of such zero errors was possibly seldom appreciated fully by the users of such an instrument, the long field-free region (1.026 m) between the B and E sectors, into which collision cells and an ion deflector could be inserted and lasers directed, proved to be highly attractive to gas-phase ion chemists. The first such instrument, installed in Swansea at the Royal Society Research Unit (RSRU) under the direction of Professor Beynon, attracted much attention from gas-phase ion chemists; among the research visitors to the RSRU were Dr. Boyd and Raymond E. March. In the early 1980s, Boyd was instrumental in bringing together the mass spectrometrists in southern Ontario to consider the establishment of a regional facility in mass spectrometry. These discussions resulted, in 1984, in equipment grants from NSERC to establish a regional facility in analytical mass spectrometry at McMaster University and a regional facility for fundamental studies in gas-phase ion chemistry at the University of Toronto. The named applicants for the latter were Boyd and the authors of this dedication. It was proposed to purchase a ZAB-2F-BE instrument modified by the addition of a quadrupole collision cell (q) and a quadrupole mass filter (Q) as the final mass-selective stage. Such a BEqQ hybrid instrument would permit measurement, in succession, of the momentum/charge, kinetic energy/charge, and mass/charge ratios of a charged species. VG Analytical, the successor of Vacuum Generators, entertained the idea of constructing this proposed hybrid instrument with some enthusiasm but the task of adding a quadrupole mass filter was not trivial because ions entering the quadrupole mass filter could have a kinetic energy of up to 8 keV. The proposed BEqQ instrument design was acceptable to all; however, the grant awarded was insufficient for the purchase of a new instrument. As a compromise, VG Analytical offered to modify a traded-in and much-traveled ZAB-2F instrument then located in a storage shed in Halifax. The instrument would be flown to Manchester, re-furbished, fitted with a quadrupole collision cell and quadrupole mass filter, and flown to the laboratory of Alex G. Harrison at the University of Toronto for the exact amount of the grant! An order was placed and the Ontario Regional Ion Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Toronto came into being. Eventually, the grantees visited the VG Analytical factory in Manchester (see Fig. 1) for a week of training and inspection of the novel instrument; we were like children with a new toy. Figure 2 shows Dr. Boyd at the console of the new ZAB-2F-BEqQ instrument in Professor Harrison's laboratory. There are two remarkable aspects of this photograph: first, such a plethora of knobs on a console for a mass spectrometer would never be seen again as instrument control passed to benchtop computers and, second, a beverage in a laboratory would be frowned upon today. The versatility of the novel instrument was described1 in a publication in 1986.

Figure 1.

Testing and learning about the new ZAB-2F-BEqQ instrument on the factory floor in Manchester. The instrument surrounded the group of, left to right, Chris Porter (VG Analytical), Alex Harrison (U. of Toronto), Bob Boyd (U. of Guelph), Ray March (Trent U.), Albert Ashcroft (VG Analytical), Dave Priddle (U. of Toronto) behind Pierre Coulombe (VG Analytical, Canada), and Phil Mountain (VG Analytical). Photograph by Michael Minifie (1985); published with the permission of Tom Foxall of Forty Five Design, UK.

Figure 2.

Dr. Boyd monitoring an ion beam on the new ZAB-2F-BEqQ instrument.

No sooner had the BEqQ instrument been installed at the University of Toronto, than Dr. Boyd made a career change; he resigned from the University of Guelph to take up a position as Senior and Principal Research Officer with the Institute for Marine Bioscience at NRCC, Halifax. However, the BEqQ proved to be a popular instrument and, based on Dr. Boyd's familiarity with the BEqQ, one was acquired by the Institute for Marine Bioscience in early 1987 just as amnesic shellfish poison first came to public attention when a large-scale human poisoning occurred in Canada through consumption of contaminated mussels. The symptoms of this poisoning included amnesia, loss of balance, mental confusion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and coma. The entire shellfish industry on Canada's east coast ground to a halt. The Institute for Marine Bioscience was mobilized immediately in an attempt to identify the poison and to determine the extent of its occurrence. The income lost by the shellfish industry in a single day was considerably more than the cost of a BEqQ instrument. Through a concerted approach to the problem using nuclear magnetic resonance, infrared spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry techniques, specifically the BEqQ instrument, the poison was found to be an unusual naturally occurring amino acid, domoic acid.2, 3 As a result of this investigation in which Dr. Boyd played an essential role, Canada's shellfish industry is monitored closely so as to safeguard the quality of the produce.

In 1997, Dr. Boyd became Editor-in-Chief of Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, a position he held until the end of 2005. In his capacity as Editor-in-Chief he nurtured a steady growth of the journal and he continued teaching through reading thoughtfully virtually every manuscript and, where appropriate, offering guidance to authors. Rather than administrating a reviewing process between reviewer and author that, on occasion, can become adversarial, he chose to intercede in such a way that the submission process became one of constructive learning that led to the refinement of the manuscript. Through his attention to detail and drawing on his vast knowledge of chemistry and mass spectrometry in particular, he has ensured a high standard for the journal that continues to this day.

Dr. Boyd enjoys the highest degree of respect of his colleagues for his integrity, his contributions to knowledge for more than 40 years, and his willingness to share his knowledge with others. We wish him a long, healthy, and productive retirement and it is our hope that he will continue to contribute to the advancement of knowledge.