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Interview with Arnold O. Beckman

Beckman, Arnold O. (1981) Interview with Arnold O. Beckman. [Oral History]

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Interview in two sessions, 1978, with Arnold O. Beckman--alumnus, faculty member, and trustee of Caltech and founder of Beckman Instruments (now Beckman Coulter, Inc.)--begins with his recollections of his early interest in chemistry. He attends University High School at Illinois State Normal University. Brief stint in the Marine Corps near end of World War I. After the war, he continues his education at the University of Illinois in Urbana, where he studies with C. S. Marvel, Gerhard Dietrichson, and Richard Chace Tolman. B.S. (chemical engineering) 1922, M.S. (physical chemistry) 1923. Follows Tolman to Caltech; does his graduate work with Roscoe Dickinson. Recollections of Arthur Amos Noyes and the Chemistry Division. Leaves Caltech in 1924 before receiving his PhD, works for Walter Shewhart at Bell Laboratories on West Street in Manhattan. Noyes prompts him to return to his graduate studies; he does so in the fall of 1926; joins Caltech faculty after receiving PhD in 1928. His consultant work and development of the pH meter. Development and production of the Helipot (helical potentiometer) and the quartz (Model DU) spectrophotometer. Establishes National Technical Laboratories while still a member of the Caltech faculty; leaves Caltech in 1939 to become its president (name changed to Beckman Instruments in 1950). Use of Helipots and spectrophotometers in World War II. In 1953, he returns to Caltech as a member of the Board of Trustees (chairman 1964-1974). Comments on Linus Pauling controversy; on changes in American work ethic prompting moving of plants overseas; on admission of women to Caltech. Founds Lincoln Club of Orange County, 1962. His interest in behavioral biology and creation of Caltech's Beckman Laboratories of Behavioral Biology. Recalls his involvement in air-pollution abatement in Los Angeles in the late 1940s and early 1950s and the work of Arie Haagen-Smit.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Chemistry, scientific instruments, philanthropy
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Beckman_A
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Beckman, Arnold O. Interview by Mary Terrall. Pasadena, California, October 16-December 4, 1978. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:All Records
Subjects > Chemistry
Subjects > Administration
ID Code:78
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:27 Sep 2004
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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