Arnold O. Beckman
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
In this interview Arnold Beckman begins with his teenage experience as an industrial chemist at a local gas works in Bloomington, Illinois and the Keystone Iron and Steel Works. This is followed by reflections on his student days at the University of Illinois, with special emphasis on some of the faculty and students. The central portion of the interview considers Beckman as a student and faculty member at Caltech and includes his early experiences with instrumentation, patents, and serving as an expert witness. The interview continues with Dr. Beckman discussing the origin of the pH meter and DU spectrophotometer, and concludes with the beginning stages of manufacturing and sales, emphasizing the principles used to build National Technical Laboratories, the company that would become Beckman Instruments.
|1922||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||BS||Chemical Engineering|
|2016||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||MS||Physical Chemistry|
|1928||California Institute of Technology||PhD||Photochemistry|
Bell Telephone Laboratories
California Institute of Technology
National Inking Appliance Company
National Technical Laboratories
Arnold O. Beckman, Inc.
Beckman Instruments, Inc
Illinois Achievement Award, University of Illinois
|1964 to 1974||
Chairman, Board of Trustees, California Institute of Technology
Honorary ScD degree, Chapman College
Honorary LL D degree, University of California at Riverside
Honorary LL D degree, Loyola University in California
Scientific Apparatus Makers Association Award
Honorary LL D degree, Pepperdine University
Honorary ScD degree, Whittier College
Arnold O. Beckman Conference in Clinical Chemistry, established by American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Arnold O. Beckman Professorship of Chemistry, established by California Institute of Technology
Hoover Medal, American Association of Engineering Societies
Life Achievement Award, Instrument Society of America
Diploma of Honor, Association of Clinical Scientists
Vermilye Medal, The Franklin Institute
National Inventors Hall of Fame, Washington, DC
National Medal of Technology
Charles Lathrop Parsons Award, American Chemical Society
National Medal of Science
Table of Contents
A home laboratory for industrial analysis. Position with Keystone Iron and Steel Works. Service in the Marine Corps.
The American chemical industry. Tension between chemists and chemical engineers. Editing the Illinois Chemist. Carl Marvel and Worth Rodebush. Working as assistant toGerhard Dietrichson. Samuel Parr. G. Frederick Smith. The Illinois style of chemistry. Involvement with the Illinois Chemist. Fellow students who became prominent. Fraternities at Illinois.
Choosing a graduate school. Atmosphere at Caltech. The field of applied chemistry. Roscoe Dickinson. Career goals. Experience in Philadelphia. Early quantum theory. Comparison of Bell Labs with academe. Working groups and individuals at Bell Labs.
Research on photochemical decomposition. Interest in instrumentation. Linus Pauling and other faculty members. Relationship between Caltech and Berkeley. Fellow graduate students. Paper on periodic table with Arthur A. Noyes. Thesis research.
Early research plans and activities. Graduate students: L. Reed Brantley, Ralph Wenner, and Albert Myers. Caltech in the late 1920s and the 1930s. Consulting work.
The Cox Oil controversy. Expert witness in court cases. The patent filing process. Research on pH measurement. Glass electrode research. Development of the acidimeter.
Marketing and business relationships. Development of NTL. Relationship with instrument inventors and developers. Development of the DU spectrophotometer. The early instrumentation industry. Other activities of NTL.
About the Interviewer
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.
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.