Hi everyone,

I've been reading up on the history of mass spectrometry (fascinating!), especially with regards to the technological advancements and scientific discoveries made by Alfred Nier. It seems that many of us stable isotope (geo)chemists consider measurement of CO2 isotopologues and specifically d13C measurements to be the 'easiest' (or perhaps the most common?), new instruments seem to be first developed for CO2 measurements (and then tested for the other systems), and d13C measurements typically have the highest precision. Indeed, Nier and Gulbransen laid the foundation for carbon isotope measurements (published) in 1939. There are lots of great scientific reasons for measuring CO2 isotopologues and/or d13C of some material.

My question is, from a philosophical, scientific, or technological standpoint, where does this (historical) proclivity for d13C and/or CO2 measurements come from? 

I look forward to your thoughts!


Bethany Theiling, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Planetary Environments Laboratory, Code 699
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771