Paul A. Wilks, Jr.
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Paul A. Wilks, Jr. begins the interview by discussing his early years and family life in Springfield, Massachusetts. After graduating from Springfield Technical High School, Wilks went to Harvard University, where he majored in engineering. In 1945, he began working at Perkin-Elmer, Inc. (now PerkinElmer). Wilks worked as an assembler before becoming marketing director in 1952. In 1957, Wilks left PerkinElmer and, with Charles W. Warren, founded the Connecticut Instrument Company, a company that manufactured accessories for the infrared industry. Wilks and Warren sold their company to R. Bowling Barnes in 1962. After working for the Barnes Engineering Company for a year as commercial products manager, Wilks left to form the Wilks Scientific Corporation. This company manufactured a variety of spectroscopy products. Wilks hired Anthony C. Gilby, an infrared spectroscopist from England, who helped in the development of these products. This company was sold to the Foxboro Company in the 1970s, and Wilks managed the Wilks division of the company until 1979. After leaving Foxboro, Wilks founded the General Analysis Corporation to market products that monitored workspace environments. The company was unable to create a market in this area and changed its focus towards producing products for other industries, such as the beverage industry. Wilks decided to retire in 1993 and General Analysis was eventually sold to OI Corporation. Although theoretically retired, Wilks started another company in the 1990s, Wilks Enterprise, Inc. This company continues Wilks' efforts to produce applicable products based on infrared spectroscopy and other technologies. Wilks concludes the interview with reflections on the state of infrared technology and thoughts about his career.
|1941||Springfield Technical High School|
Connecticut Instrument Corporation
Barnes Engineering Company
Wilks Scientific Corporation
General Analysis Corporation
Wilks Enterprise, Inc.
Williams-Wright Award, Coblentz Society
Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation
Table of Contents
Parents' background. High school in Springfield, Massachusetts. Harvard University. Introduction to Richard S. Perkin. Joining Perkin-Elmer, Inc. Interest in all things technical. Perkin-Elmer Instrument News for Science and Industry.
Impressions of Richard S. Perkin. Max D. Liston. John White. Van Zandt Williams. R. Bowling Barnes. Model 12 and Model 21. Sales. Involvement with E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Company. Television industry. Trip to Radio Corporation of America. Howard H. Cary. Ultraviolet region. On-line infrared (IR) instruments. Development of gas chromatography. Warren Electronics.
Charles W. Warren. Contract for Sidewinder dampers. Ultrasonic machining. R. Norman Jones. Cavity cells. CIC as an infrared accessory company. Funding of CIC. Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy. Eastern Analytical Society. Attenuated total reflection (ATR). Sale to R. Bowling Barnes.
N. James Harrick. Attachment with a multiple reflection ATR. Work on gas chromatography infrared spectroscopy. Myron J. Block. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy instruments. Relationship with R. Bowling Barnes. Wilks Scientific products and markets. Anthony C. Gilby. Rivalry between Perkin-Elmer and Beckman Instruments, Inc. Circular variable filters. Optical Coating Laboratory Inc. and Rolf F. Illsley. Emissions testing. Wilks Scientific as instrument company. Problems with Perkin-Elmer. MIRAN 1A. Sale to Foxboro Company. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Management style. Meeting Arnold O. Beckman. Facilities in Milton Keynes, England. Problems with workspace testing. Needs of the beverage industry. Retirement at age seventy. Donald K. Wilks.
Fat analyzer. EPA and freon. In-line sensors based on IR. InterBev. Beer industry. Beverage dispensers. Applications for the auto industry. Discussion of future products and markets.
Joint Committee on Atomic and Molecular Physical Data and JCamp-DX. Computers and IR. John White and the White cell. Perkin-Elmer optics department. Perkin-Elmer's efforts in infrared. Atomic energy project. Reflections on Van Zandt Williams. Coblentz Society. Development of Model 21. Norman Wright. Competition between instrument companies. Key developers of Model 21. Discussion of Perkin-Elmer's customers. Success of Perkin-Elmer. Funding of Wilks Scientific.
Thoughts about available technologies. Switch from liquid to gas analyzers. General Analysis Corporation. Retirement in 1993. GAC board of directors. Competition between IR and other types of instruments. Importance of the evolution of electronics to IR. Rise of near-infrared. Final thoughts on career.
About the Interviewer
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 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.