Robert J. Manning

Born: January 12, 1920 | Kansas City, KS, US
Died: February 15, 2004 | Orange County, CA, US

Robert J. Manning begins the interview by discussing his educational background in chemistry and his United States Navy research on rocket fuel. Manning relates the details of his lengthy career at Beckman Instruments, Inc., where he gravitated toward infrared instrumentation. Manning also reflects on education and information sharing at Beckman. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0239
No. of pages: 30
Minutes: 140

Interview Sessions

David C. Brock and Gerald E. Gallwas
19 February 2002
Fullerton, California

Abstract of Interview

Robert J. Manning begins the interview with a brief sketch of his educational background. In 1948, after graduating with a M.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Manning spent time in the United States Navy researching rocket fuel. From there Manning obtained a position at Beckman Instruments, Inc., where he remained until his retirement in 1986. Working in the application engineering department at Beckman, Manning gravitated toward infrared instrumentation, and eventually became the national president for the Society of Applied Spectroscopy. Having spent thirty-three years at Beckman Instruments, Manning has a valuable wealth of knowledge about nuances in development of landmark instruments from Beckman, which he details throughout the interview. In 1960, Manning moved his family to Chicago where he started an applications laboratory at Beckman's offices there. Manning moved back to California in 1963 to enjoy his new position as product line manager of ultraviolet instruments, before returning to the laboratory, where he would spend the rest of his career. Education and information sharing were paramount to Manning, and he traveled the country educating people about spectroscopy, via workshops, lecture series, and summer courses at various universities. Manning concludes the interview with reflections on his career and home life. 


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1943 St. Benedict's College BS Chemistry
1948 University of Missouri MS Chemistry

Professional Experience

US Naval Ordnance Test Station

1948 to 1953
Research Chemist

Beckman Instruments, Inc

1953 to 1960
Senior Applications Chemist
1960 to 1963
Regional Applications Chemist
1963 to 1968
Ultraviolet Product Line Manager
1968 to 1973
Principal Application Chemist
1973 to 1986
Senior Scientist, Beckman Technical Education Center

Table of Contents

Early Career and Discussion of Instrumentation at Beckman Instruments, Inc.

Educational background. United States Naval Ordnance Test Station research on rocket fuel. Starting a career at Beckman Instruments, Inc. Discussion of Beckman instruments such as the DK, DU, and Model B.

Applications and Marketing of Beckman Instrumentation

Ultraviolet instrumentation and competitors to Beckman spectrophotometers. H. Howard Cary and Beckman Instruments. Selling the DU spectrophotometer. The emerging importance of the near infrared region in spectroscopy and use of the DK spectrophotometer.

Career Moves at Beckman and Educational Initiatives in Spectroscopy

Establishing an applications laboratory in Chicago. Product line manager for ultraviolet instrumentation. Educational initiatives in spectroscopy. Formation of the Southern California Society for Applied Spectroscopy.


The role of the application engineering department in developing new instrumentation at Beckman. Lee Cahn's departure from Beckman Instruments. Arnold O. Beckman, Inc. and the production of oxygen meters. Reflections on career and home life.


About the Interviewer

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.