The History of XPS


The Scientists who made XPS Possible


Professor Kai Siegbahn, PhD

Received “Nobel Prize for developing XPS” into a Useful Analytical Method starting from 1953   


Nobel Lecture


History of XPS

In 1887, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz discovered but could not explain the photoelectric effect, which was later explained in 1905 by Albert Einstein (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1921).

Two years after Einstein’s publication, in 1907, P.D. Innes experimented with a Röntgen tube, Helmholtz coils, a magnetic field hemisphere (an electron kinetic energy analyzer), and photographic plates, to record broad bands of emitted electrons as a function of velocity, in effect recording the first XPS spectrum.

Other researchers, including Henry Moseley, Rawlinson and Robinson, independently performed various experiments to sort out the details in the broad bands.

After WWIIKai Siegbahn and his research group in Uppsala (Sweden) developed several significant improvements in the equipment, and in 1954 recorded the first high-energy-resolution XPS spectrum of cleaved sodium chloride (NaCl), revealing the potential of XPS.

A few years later in 1967, Siegbahn published a comprehensive study of XPS, bringing instant recognition of the utility of XPS, which he referred to as Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA).

In cooperation with Siegbahn, a small group of engineers (Mike Kelly, Charles Bryson, Lavier Faye, Robert Chaney) at Hewlett-Packard in the USA, produced the first commercial monochromatic XPS instrument in 1969. Siegbahn received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1981, to acknowledge his extensive efforts to develop XPS into a useful analytical tool.

In parallel with Siegbahn’s work, David Turner at Imperial College London (and later at Oxford University) developed ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS) for molecular species using helium lamps.

At the same time as Siegbahn, scientists Lehigh University were also developing XPS.


Charles D. Wagner, PhD  

By himself, Dr. Wagner spent thousands of hours in the library to produce the very first database of BEs, which he donated to NIST.





The Optical Phenomenon that produces the Photoelectric Effect




The Wide Range of Applications of XPS





The Almost Exponential Rise in XPS Publications starting in 1985