Photo of Arnold O. Beckman

Arnold O. Beckman

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his leadership in the development of analytical instrumentation, and for his deep and abiding concern for the vitality of the Nation’s scientific enterprise.

Considered one of history’s top inventors of scientific instruments, Arnold Beckman created devices that revolutionized the study and understanding of human biology, saving countless lives around the world. Beckman founded Beckman Instruments in 1935 with the invention of the acidimeter, which he first produced for a former classmate at a Southern California citrus processing plant. Designed to measure acidity levels in lemon juice, the acidimeter was the forerunner of the modern pH meter and quickly became an indispensable tool for researchers and physicians.

He went on to invent what has been nicknamed the “Model T” of scientific instrumentation, the Beckman DU Spectrophotometer. The device simplified and streamlined chemical analysis by allowing researchers to perform a 99.9% accurate assessment of a substance within minutes, as opposed to the weeks previously required with only 25% accuracy.

Among many other contributions, Beckman also led the fight to diagnose and control the sources of air pollution in the 1950s that were making the air surrounding Los Angeles and other big cities around the world unhealthy to breathe.

By Jen Santisi