According to most sources, Russian Botanist Mikhail Tsvet was the first person to use chromatography (in fact, he coined the term) in 1901 when seperating an extract of green leaves through a glass tube filled with calcium carbonate.
But according to an article published in the Montreal Gazette, it appears two German scientists may have been doing some chromatography nearly 40 years earlier...
The Annual Review of Progress in Chemistry published in German in 1862, about 40 years before Tsvet's experiment, includes the following lines: "Friedrich Goppelsroder has shown that (Christian) Schönbein's observation, whereby solutions of various substances are aspired with very different rates and intensities by filter paper, can be used to separate and distinguish different dyes contained in the solution." That is a clear a description of what we now call "paper chromatography," yet Goppelsroder and Christian Friedrich Schönbein hardly ever get a mention when it comes to the invention of the technique.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Colour+writing+colourful+history/5112117/story.html#ixzz1SScIImOb
Seriously, we recommend reading the entire article - it's a truly great read.