Arnold O. Beckman

Born: April 10, 1900 | Cullom, IL, US
Died: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 | La Jolla, CA, US

In this interview Dr. Arnold Beckman begins with the National Technical Laboratories in the late 1930s, and includes details on its policies and operations. He continues with the change from NTL to Beckman Instruments, and emphasizes the development of spectrophotometry instrumentation during the 1940s. Other projects, including mass spectrometers, Geiger counters, pocket electroscopes, and the oxygen analyzer, are also discussed. Following World War II Beckman describes his reinvolvement with Caltech. The interview concludes with Beckman talking about air pollution work in Los Angeles, the formation of Shockley Laboratories, and the future of the instrumentation industry. 

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0014B
No. of pages: 47
Minutes: 151

Interview Sessions

Jeffrey L. Sturchio and Arnold Thackray
23 July 1985
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

In this interview Dr. Arnold Beckman begins with the National Technical Laboratories in the late 1930s, and includes details on its policies and operations. Beckman continues with the change from NTL to Beckman Instruments, and emphasizes the development of spectrophotometry instrumentation during the 1940s in the central portion of the transcript. Other projects, including mass spectrometers, Geiger counters, pocket electroscopes, and especially the oxygen analyzer, are also discussed. Following World War II Beckman describes his reinvolvement with Caltech. The interview concludes with Beckman talking about air pollution work in Los Angeles, the formation of Shockley Laboratories, and the future of the instrumentation industry. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1922 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign BS Chemical Engineering
1923 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign MS Physical Chemistry
1928 California Institute of Technology PhD Photochemistry

Professional Experience

Bell Telephone Laboratories

1924 to 1926
Research Engineer

California Institute of Technology

1926 to 1929
Instructor
1929 to 1940
Assistant Professor

National Inking Appliance Company

1934
Vice President

National Technical Laboratories

1937 to 1939
Vice President
1939 to 1940
President

Helipot Corporation

1944 to 1958
President

Arnold O. Beckman, Inc.

1946 to 1958
President

Beckman Instruments, Inc

1940 to 1965
President
1965 to 1985
Chairman of the Board

Honors

Year(s) Award
1960

Illinois Achievement Award, University of Illinois

1964 to 1974

Chairman, Board of Trustees, California Institute of Technology

1965

Honorary ScD degree, Chapman College

1969

Honorary LL D degree, University of California at Riverside

1969

Honorary LL D degree, Loyola University in California

1974

Scientific Apparatus Makers Association Award

1977

Honorary LL D degree, Pepperdine University

1977

Honorary ScD degree, Whittier College

1977

Arnold O. Beckman Conference in Clinical Chemistry, established by American Association for Clinical Chemistry

1980

Arnold O. Beckman Professorship of Chemistry, established by California Institute of Technology

1981

Hoover Medal, American Association of Engineering Societies

1981

Life Achievement Award, Instrument Society of America

1982

Diploma of Honor, Association of Clinical Scientists

1987

Vermilye Medal, The Franklin Institute

1987

National Inventors Hall of Fame, Washington, DC

1988

National Medal of Technology

1989

Charles Lathrop Parsons Award, American Chemical Society

1989

National Medal of Science

Table of Contents

The State of Spectroscopy and National Technical Laboratories in the Early 1940s
1

Manufacturers of spectrophotometers. Different typesof spectrophotometers. Interest of scientists in spectrophotometers. Little knowledge of business world at early NTL. Publicity for the spectrophotometer. Development and market research. Creation of sales and service support.

National Technical Laboratories
7

Personnel and their responsibilities. Employees encouraged in their own business ventures. Entrepreneurial environment in Pasadena area. J. Bishop and business techniques at NTL. Philosophy and education for business. Employee relations. Company philosophy. Decision to leave Caltech. Business methods. Advice for scientific entrepreneurs.

Development of the Spectrophotometer
15

Funding for the DU and other research. Government role in funding research and development. Involvement in synthetic rubber project. IR and UV spectrophotometers. Problems in marketing spectrophotometers through dealers.

Other Beckman Instruments, Inc. Projects During World War II
19

Manufacture of mass spectrometers, Geiger counters, and pocket electroscopes. Development of the oxygen analyzer. Problems with manufacture of bulbs for oxygen analyzer. Development of quartz fibers for oxygen analyzer. Merger of Arnold O. Beckman, Inc. and Beckman Instruments, Inc. Organization of the Board of Directors of Beckman Instruments. Income and organization of subsidiaries. Attitude toward post-war plans.

Post-World War II Period at Caltech
25

Personal reinvolvement with Caltech. Changes concerning applied science. Chairman of the Board. Fundraising. Tensions between science and engineering. Impact of changes in federal research and development funding. Classified research.

Air Pollution Work and Other Projects
30

Active in Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Growing concern over air pollution in Los Angeles area. Incorrect focus on sulfur dioxide as source of pollution. Discovery of auto exhaust as pollutant. Meeting with Henry Ford II. Member of National Air Pollution Board. Setting up Shockley Laboratories. Development of cermets. Future direction of instrumentation industry.

Future Direction of Instrumentation Industry
35

Miniaturization. Competition in the instrumentation field. Involvement in Japan's entry into semi-conductor industry. Electronic instrumentation and the health care field. Need for new methods of education.

Notes
40
Index
42

About the Interviewer

Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Previously he served as vice president of corporate responsibility at Merck & Co., president of the Merck Company Foundation, and chairman of the U.S. Corporate Council on Africa. Sturchio is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Healthy Next Generation of the World Economic Forum. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.