Michael A. Kelly

Born: December 14, 1936 | Roswell, NM, US

Michael A. Kelly discusses his early interest in radio and television electronics, and his education, including a master's degree at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in nuclear physics at University of California, Berkeley. Kelly joined the Hewlett-Packard Company after completion of his PhD as a research scientist and developed and refined the first ESCA instrumentation. Kelly also discusses his subsequent positions at Surface Science Laboratories, Kevex Corporation, Stanford University, and he reflects on the impact of ESCA and innovation during his career.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0253
No. of pages: 27
Minutes: 100

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock and Arthur Daemmrich
19 March 2002
Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, New Orleans, Louisiana

Abstract of Interview

Michael A. Kelly begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood and education. Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, Kelly became interested in radio and television electronics at a young age. After high school, Kelly earned an ROTC scholarship at UCLA, and obtained his bachelor's degree in engineering from that University in 1959. He later earned his master's degree in electrical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic, and his PhD in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1968, Kelly began as a research scientist for the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP). After three years, he was promoted to manager of R&D for electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA). While there, he developed and refined the first ESCA instruments for commercial use. Kelly left HP in 1976, and became the president of Surface Science Laboratories; a company that designed and marketed ESCA instrumentation. In 1988, Surface Science merged with the Kevex Corporation, and Kelly became the president and chief operating officer. He stay with Kevex for about a year, but when the company was bought-out by Thermo Vacuum Generators, Inc., Kelly took a teaching position at Stanford University. He currently teaches materials science at the University, and is working on some new analytical techniques. Kelly concludes the interview with a discussion of his impact on ESCA instrumentation, and the importance of innovation in society.


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1959 University of California, Los Angeles BS Engineering
1963 Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute MSEE Electrical Engineering
1968 University of California, Berkeley PhD Nuclear Physics

Professional Experience

Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

1964 to 1968
Electrical Engineer/Research Scientist

Hewlett-Packard Company

1968 to 1971
Research Scientist
1971 to 1976
Research and Development Manager, ESCA

Surface Science Laboratories

1976 to 1985

Kevex Corporation

1985 to 1989
President and Chief Operating Officer

Stanford University

Consulting Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering


Year(s) Award

IR(100) Award for an imaging, photon counting detector


IR(100) Award for a high spatial resolution XPS spectrometer


Glenn T. Seaborg Laboratory Special Award for a soft x-ray window, Kevex Corporation


American Physical Society


American Vacuum Society


Materials Research Society

Table of Contents

Childhood and Education

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico. Interest in radio and television repair in high school. Obtaining ROTC scholarship to attend UCLA. Earned master's degree at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Working in the medical school with Marcel Verzeano. The University of California at Berkeley. Writing his dissertation.


Joining the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) in 1968. Building an NMR box. Developing an atomic fluorescence spectrometer. Initial involvement with ESCA instrumentation. David A. Shirley. Attending PITTCON conferences.

Reflections on Hewlett-Packard

HP's acquisition of the F&M Scientific Corporation. HP's work with GC/MS instruments. James L. Waters. Discussion of HP's gamble with ESCA techonolgy. Kai Seigbahn's involvement with HP's ESCA program. Becoming engineering manager of ESCA project in 1971. Industrial clients of the ESCA instrument. The ESCA market.

After HP

Working at Surface Science Laboratories. Surviving without HP's machine division. Marketing Surface Science products. Robert L. Cheney. Description of 1981 instrument. Merging with the Kevex Corporation.


Current work at Stanford University. Reflections on the impact of ESCA during his career. Discussing the importance of innovation.


About the Interviewer

Arthur Daemmrich

Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.