Arnold Orville Beckman was a well-known American chemist, inventor, and philanthropist. Arnold had a penchant for solving difficulties, thanks to his strong understanding and attention to detail. He first came upon a chemical textbook when he was a child, and thus began his lifelong fascination with the subject. Beckman started a company that studied the composition of natural gas while still in school. He developed a thorough understanding of electronic circuits while working at the Western Electric Company. In later life, he used his chemistry and electronics knowledge to address a variety of difficulties. He invented the first pH meter, which was used to determine the acidity of a solution. He then devised a machine that could calculate the energy of light in the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet (UV) spectrums. He adapted the pH meter’s potentiometers to create a helipot that could be used in planes and ships. The chemical also collaborated with the Californian government to reduce the negative impacts of smog in Los Angeles. He was also a part of the Manhattan Project, which developed nuclear weapons. Orville invented the dosimeter, which could tell you how much ionizing radiation you’ve been exposed to. This innovator has made significant contributions to humanity; continue reading to learn more about his life and achievements.
Childhood and Adolescence
Arnold Orville Beckman was born on April 10, 1900, to George Beckman and Elizabeth Ellen Jewkes. In the small American hamlet of Cullom, George had a blacksmith shop.
The village was largely made up of farmers, but the young guy was always curious about the world’s knowledge. His father fostered his curiosity, and when Arnold came upon a science textbook called “Fourteen Weeks in Chemistry,” George assisted him in setting up his own laboratory in a tool shed.
After Elizabeth’s death in 1912, he shuttered his shop and went to work as a blacksmithing tool salesman. Because his new profession forced him to travel frequently, the children were entrusted to a maid. During this period, Orville worked as a pianist in a neighborhood band and even as an “official cream tester” in a nearby shop.
The family relocated to Normal in 1914, and the children attended ‘University High School,’ which was linked with ‘Illinois State University.’ Professor Howard W. Adams enabled the outstanding mind to attend university-level chemistry seminars the next year.
Career of Arnold Orville Beckman
He was the family’s youngest kid, but he was the most hardworking, even starting a business while still in high school. The chemical components of natural gas and other petroleum products produced by the local gas business were researched at his research facility, ‘Bloomington Research Laboratories.’
After graduating from high school with honors in 1918, he enlisted in the army and worked as a scientist for the defense forces throughout WWI. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday the same year.
He went to a three-month boot camp in South Carolina before being sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. However, before he could be sent to active duty, a ceasefire was imposed.
In 1918, he enrolled at the research-oriented ‘University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.’ Beckman, who had intended to major in organic chemistry, switched to physical chemistry after becoming ill as a result of the harmful effects of mercury.
In 1922, he completed his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering under the guidance of outstanding professors such as Worth Rodebush, T. A. White, and Gerhard Dietrichson. He was a member of fraternities such as ‘Alpha Chi Sigma’ and ‘Gamma Alpha Graduate Scientific Society’ at the institution.
Arnold was particularly interested in the thermodynamics of aqueous ammonia solutions during his master’s degree. He earned his master’s degree in physical chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1923.
He then relocated to California and began post-graduate studies at the ‘California Institute of Technology’ (‘Caltech’). He barely stayed at Caltech for a year before leaving to work for the ‘Western Electric Company’ in New York. Working in the engineering department, physicist Walter A. Shewhart exposed him to circuit design, which sparked his interest in electronics.
Beckman returned to Caltech in 1926 to complete his postgraduate studies. He focused on developing a method to calculate the energy of UV radiation for his doctoral dissertation.
In 1928, he was awarded a Ph.D. in photochemistry and offered a post as a research instructor for chemistry at the ‘University of California after successfully completing the design of the intended gadget.
Orville began his teaching career at Caltech in 1929, and it would last for the following ten years. He began his career as a research instructor before being appointed as a professor of chemistry, where he taught introductory and advanced graduate students.
He concentrated on the importance of precise and accurate instrumentation, and his expertise in electronics helped him win acceptance from his peers and professors. He began consulting work outside the university with the permission of his superiors, Arthur Amos Noyes, the department head, and Robert Andrews Millikan, the then-President of the University.
In 1934, while working for the ‘National Postal Meter Company,’ Beckman launched his first business enterprise. Beckman founded his own ink manufacturing company, ‘National Inking Appliance Company,’ after failing to find a manufacturer that could provide a non-clogging ink utilizing butyric acid that could be utilized by machines to print postage.
Despite developing the invention and obtaining a patent for the non-clogging ink, he was unable to persuade any potential buyers. His company, which he founded with two of his students, was eventually repurposed for a new purpose.
Sunkist Growers, another of his clients, was having trouble gauging the acidity of their goods, such as pectin or citric acid. Litmus paper was not a suitable technique for determining acidity because sulfur dioxide was a component utilized in the manufacturing of the items.
When the corporation approached Arnold, he used his glassblowing expertise to come up with a vacuum-tube amplifier design. The company ordered a second component after being impressed by the functional prototype.
He improved the design of his acidity measuring instrument, making it more portable and easier to use. The world’s first ‘pH meter,’ patented by Beckman in 1934, was born as a result of this. Initially, Arnold’s “acidimeter” was marketed and distributed by the ‘Arthur H. Thomas Company,’ a significant participant in the field of scientific instruments based in Philadelphia.
In 1935, he renamed his company ‘National Technical Laboratories,’ fueled by the success of the pH meter. He focused his new company on producing scientific devices, including the pH meter.
The company expanded from the old garage to a larger location, and as sales increased over time, Orville left his employment at the university to run his business full-time in 1939.
His loan for creating a factory was authorized the next year, and the manufacturing unit was established in South Pasadena across a wide 12,000 square foot space. In 1940, a National Technical research team set out with the goal of creating a simpler instrument for measuring light energy in the visible range.
The resulting instrument, which was simple to use and efficient, earned the ‘National Bureau of Standards’ seal of approval and was dubbed the ‘DU spectrophotometer.’ The technology slashed the amount of time it took to get findings from a chemical examination of materials. During WWII, the spectrophotometer was also employed in the manufacturing of penicillin.
Beckman’s next significant discovery came in 1942 when he was given the task of developing a spectrophotometer that could measure light energy in the infrared zone. Beckman was told by the ‘Office of Rubber Reserve to keep the developments of his ‘IR-1 Spectrophotometer’ under wraps, so he couldn’t reveal them.
In 1953, he improved the IR-1 Spectrophotometer model to include the option of using a single or double beam of light for analysis. The older model could only employ a single infrared beam, while the dual-beam model allowed users to calculate and compare sample and reference energy at the same time.
He also improved the design of the knob or “helipot,” a helical potentiometer that could be used in planes, ships, and submarines. Beckman founded ‘Helipot Corporation,’ which dealt with electronics gear, with a board that was still cautious about the growing field of electronics.
The astute inventor next worked on the ‘Pauling oxygen meter’ for the ‘National Defense Research Committee,’ which was invented by his former Caltech colleague, Linus Pauling. Another offshoot, ‘Arnold O. Beckman, Inc.,’ created the gadget, and Arnold employed a miniature glass-blower he designed to make the glass dumbbells used in the oxygen meter.
The device, which was first employed to monitor oxygen levels in submarines and planes during World War II, was later used to monitor oxygen levels in incubators for preterm babies.
Scientists working on the ‘Manhattan Project’ during WWII used the micro-ammeter, which he invented by modifying his pH meter, and the dosimeter, which measures ionizing radiation exposure.
He served as a scientific consultant to the ‘Air Pollution Control Officer’ of the newly formed ‘Air Pollution Control Districts’ in Los Angeles from 1948 to 1952.
He worked on creating strategies to counteract the ‘Los Angeles smog’ alongside chemist Arie Jan Haagen-Smit in this role.
He devised a smog-measuring apparatus and drafted a California governor’s advisory charter. He also helped to form the non-profit ‘Air Pollution Foundation,’ which aimed to educate the public and gather funds for more smog research.
Orville had a controlling interest in the company by 1950, when it was renamed ‘National Technical Laboratories.’ In 1952, ‘Beckman Instruments, Incorporated’ became the first company to issue stocks on the ‘New York Curb Exchange,’ and the company grew rapidly in the following years.
Beckman Instruments entered the centrifuge business in 1954 after acquiring ‘Specialized Instruments Corp.’ The following year, Arnold formed the ‘Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory,’ which was run by Nobel Laureate William Shockley and was a subsidiary of his own corporation.
Beckman Instruments absorbed the ‘Helipot Corporation’ in 1958 and renamed it the Helipot Division. He sold the semiconductor laboratory to the ‘Clevite Transistor Company’ two years later.
Arnold’s company’s Systems Division, which was founded after acquiring the ‘Berkeley Scientific Company’ in the 1950s, dealt with the development of analog computer systems for clients such as NASA and aerospace businesses such as Boeing.
Major Projects of Arnold Orville Beckman
Arnold invented various gadgets during his career, including the pH meter, spectrometer, dosimeter, and helical potentiometer. Beckman Instruments, his company, became one of the top manufacturers of biomedical laboratory instruments in the United States. Berliner was even involved in the developing field of computers, contributing to the development of what is now known as Silicon Valley.
Achievements & Awards
Arnold received numerous prizes and honors throughout his career, including the Hoover Medal and the Tolman Award.
He was awarded the ‘National Medal of Technology’ in 1988, followed by the ‘National Medal of Science’ and the ‘Presidential Citizens Medal’ the following year.
The ‘Public Welfare Medal’ and the ‘Othmer Gold Medal’ were also bestowed to the prominent philanthropist.
In 1987, Beckman was inducted into the ‘National Inventors Hall of Fame’ in Ohio, and he received the organization’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award.’
Personal History and Legacy
Arnold met Mabel Stone Meinzer at the YMCA around Thanksgiving in 1918, and the two were soon engaged.
On June 10, 1925, the couple married, and Mabel followed Beckman to California the next year.
On May 18, 2004, at the age of 104, this outstanding scientific genius passed away in California. He was laid to rest at the ‘West Lawn Cemetery’ in Illinois.
Estimated Net worth
Arnold is one of the wealthiest chemists and one of the most well-known chemists. Arnold Orville Beckman has a net worth of $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.