A tribute to a Great Scientist

It is a privilege to write a tribute to Karl H. Norris


Contribution from Russ Tkachuk

This photo of Russell was taken around the time he was working with the Cary17! 


It is a privilege to write a tribute to Karl H. Norris (23 May 1921 – 17 July 2019).  

Karl’s report that NIR should be very useful for grain analysis in 1965 seemed like a very useful concept, especially for a grain producing country like Canada. So, near infrared reflectance (NIR) studies began at the Grain Research Laboratory. It became obvious that the spectrophotometers of the day were not useful as their NIR reflectance signals was too low and noisy. The new upcoming new double beam Cary 17I spectrophotometer with silica optics should be the best one to use. Once we obtained the instrument, it became obvious that it’s NIR output while better, was still  low and noisy

to analysis whole grain seeds (Work with ground samples was not desired because constant particle size is difficult to reproduce, and the grinding was messy and an extra work step). It took several years to improve NIR signal strength and reduce noise by using additional Silica optics and sample holders, chilling the NIR detector, using a gold coated integrating sphere, rebuilding the amplifier, flushing the spectrophometer with dry nitrogen and using better reflectance sulfur standards. Finally, we had to program and use a minicomputer, for instrument control, record the very large data files and carry out complex step - wise regression calculations. Finally, satisfactory direct protein analysis of whole grain samples could be obtaining in a few minutes per sample. The results were reported and published in 1979 and 1981.

During the above studies, Karl Norris was visited in his Bethesda laboratory and we met numerous times at various scientific conferences. He was very interested in my work with Don Law on the chemistry of NIRS, and particularly on our identification of the main wavelengths of wheat components. He was always very generous, in giving useful suggestions and advice to NIR queries, which was always given in a willing and friendly manner.


So, Karl Norris, “Rest in Peace”, and “Thank You” so very much for all your help and useful advice.


Russell Tkachuk, Sechelt, B.C., Canada (Formerly with the Grain Research Laboratory, Canadian Grain Commission, Winnipeg, MB, Canada; 1959 – 1995).