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Magnetic Resonance: An Account of Some Key Discoveries and Their Consequences

Volume 50, Number 11 (Nov. 1996) Page 16A-28A

Becker, Edwin D.

What does "NMR" mean to you? As a spectroscopist, you probably think of nuclear magnetic resonance as a type of spectroscopy in which the sample is placed in a magnetic field and transitions are observed in the radio-frequency (rf) region of the spectrum. But an organic chemist thinks of NMR as arguably one of the two most important tools for elucidation of molecular structure. A physical chemist may see NMR as a method for obtaining valuable information on molecular dynamics. A structural biologist thinks of NMR as one of only two methods (X-ray crystallography is the other) for obtaining precise three-dimensional structures of proteins and other macromolecules. A materials scientist views NMR as a technique for obtaining information about the composition of heterogeneous substances. A neurosurgeon thinks of NMR as the method of providing exquisitely detailed three-dimensional images of the human brain. Like the song "That's What Happiness Is", NMR is "different things to different people".