Instrumental to Many's Success

Today is the 97th birthday of American inventor and chemist Arnold Beckman. Asked by California growers to find a way to measure the acidity of lemon juice, Beckman, a young researcher at the California Institute of Technology, built the first pH meter in the mid-1920s, using a vacuum tube sensitive to electrical currents. A decade later, he established Beckman Instruments Inc. to mass-produce pH meters; the company today produces a range of scientific instruments and research products.

In 1940, Beckman developed the quartz spectrophotometer, which analyzes the composition of materials. The new machine provided results in minutes that were 99.9% accurate, revolutionizing the field of analytical chemistry. Fifteen years ago, he co-founded the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic in Irvine, California, the town in which he resides. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman foundation has awarded more than $170 million in grants to universities for research.

[Source: Emily McMurray, Ed., Notable Twentieth Century Scientists (Gale Research Inc., ITP, 1995).]