Robert W. Allington
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Robert W. Allington begins the interview with a sketch of his family history. His father, a scientist for the United States Department of Agriculture, and later at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln [UNL], encouraged Allington’s interest in science. During his adolescence, Allington developed his skills in electronics through building radios, among other things, and by working as a television repairman. He worked as an intern at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory on the SAGE air defense computer in the spring of 1955. Near the conclusion of the internship Allington was diagnosed with polio, and throughout the interview describes the effect of the disease on his life. While still in the hospital, he met his future business partner, Jacob Schafer, an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Jobs repairing scientific equipment evolved into projects to fulfill requests from his clients for novel instrumentation. This led Allington to become an entrepreneur. He completed his master’s degree in electrical engineering at UNL, having taken an unusually large number of chemistry courses for an electrical engineer. Allington abandoned his original intention of a career in academic research to found Instrumentation Specialties Company [Isco]. Originally creating specialized instruments on request, the company gradually evolved into two major divisions, separation and environmental instrumentation. Robert Allington remained active in the research and innovation behind product development even as chief executive officer of his company. He concludes the interview by sharing recollections of his personal life and briefly discussing his future plans.
|1959||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||BS||Electrical Engineering|
|1961||University of Nebraska-Lincoln||MS||Electrical Engineering|
M and M TV Clinic
Lincoln TV Center
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Instrumentation Specialties Company [Isco, Inc.]
National first prize for article in engineering student periodical, Engineering College Magazine Association and McGraw-Hill Publishing Company
|1959 to 1961||
National Science Foundation Fellowship
First prize for undergraduate research paper, American Institute of Electrical Engineers
|1965 to 2006||
Registered Professional Engineer
Accredited Professional Chemist
Handicapped Nebraskan of the Year
Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award, Professional Engineers of Nebraska
Distinguished Service Award, Lincoln Kiwanis Club
IR-100 Award, Research and Development Magazine
National Small Business Person of the Year, U. S. Small Business Administration
Honorary D. Sc. , University of Nebraska
IR-100 Award, Research and Development Magazine
Honorary D. Sc. , Chemistry, University of Nebraska
Lincoln Jaycees Outstanding Chief Executive Award
Support of Research Award, Sigma Xi
Business Leadership Award, University of Nebraska
Friend of Science Award, The Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Inc.
Executive of the Year, Research and Development Magazine
Outstanding Alumnus Award, University of Nebraska‚ÄìLincoln, College of Engineering
Entrepreneur of the Year, Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship, College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska‚ÄìLincoln
Alumni Achievement Award, University of Nebraska
Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation
Table of Contents
Allington family history, illustrated with anecdotes about grandfather and father. Father's work with U. S. Department of Agriculture on an antibody to Virus X. Early penchant for electronics and interest in chemistry. Social experiences in grade school and junior high. Work as a television repairman.
Acquiring internship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Spring 1955. Work at Lincoln Laboratory on SAGE air defense computer. Descriptions of government research, with details of computer's capabilities and features. Development of polio and its impact on life at school.
Meeting future business partner Jacob Schafer. Brother's skills as a machinist, and woodworker. Artistically inclined. Religion in the Allington family. Beginnings of the Instrumentation Specialties Company. Creating a customer base and hiring new employees. Developing new products.
Work on master's thesis. Development of ruminant pressure apparatus, thus generating sufficient profit to begin full-time business. Starting a career with own company instead of planned career in academic research. Breadth of electronic engineering curriculum at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Personnel changes at Isco and shift in company objectives. Development of environmental instruments. The competitive field of liquid chromatography. Expansion of premises, issuing of public stock, and improved inventory control. Description of the hydrogen sulfide process analyzer and supercritical fluid extraction products. Consolidating the two operational divisions both operationally and physically.
Home life with dog, Steinmetz, and marriage. Reminiscing about owning a Mercedes-Benz Model 600. Community service and purchase of a historic home for restoration. Professional focus on innovation and research. Increasing the competitiveness of separation instrumentation at Isco. Plans for retirement, further reminiscences about cars, and current work.
About the Interviewer
Arnold Thackray founded the Chemical Heritage Foundation and served the organization as president for 25 years. He is currently CHF’s chancellor. Thackray received MA and PhD degrees in history of science from Cambridge University. He has held appointments at Cambridge, Oxford University, and Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1983 Thackray received the Dexter Award from the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions to the history of chemistry. He served for more than a quarter century on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding chairman of the Department of History and Sociology of Science and is currently the Joseph Priestley Professor Emeritus.
John R. Van Ness was the vice president for external relations of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He received Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and holds a B.A. from Colorado College, Colorado Springs. Van Ness has held several executive positions at colleges in the Philadelphia area, most recently as associate vice president for development at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In addition, he is a noted scholar of Hispanic history and culture in the American Southwest, a series editor at the University of New Mexico Press, and the author of four books. He has won several grants, honors, and awards for his scholarship, and has been included in Who’s Who in America. He is also on the board of directors of the Mexican Cultural Center in Philadelphia, and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.