The first commercially successful electronic pH meter was invented in 1934 by Arnold O. Beckman (1900–2004), then an instructor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In this latest installment of “Scientists You Must Know” the Chemical Heritage Foundation takes a look at Beckman's legendary contributions to the field of chemistry.

Among the other early products developed by Beckman's company were an ultraviolet spectrophotometer—the Beckman DU (1940)—and an infrared and visible spectrophotometer—the Beckman IR-1 (1942). Today Beckman Coulter (formerly Beckman Instruments) manufactures and markets instrument systems for conducting basic scientific research, new product research, and clinical diagnosis—and, of course, for students at all levels.

Among other contributions to our technological civilization, Beckman led the fight to diagnose and control the sources of air pollution that were, by the 1950s, making the air surrounding Los Angeles and other big cities around the world unhealthy to breathe. He also helped create Silicon Valley as the center of the semiconductor industry in the United States by his encouragement of William Shockley, an inventor of the transistor, and by the establishment in 1955 of Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories as a subsidiary of Beckman Instruments.

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