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National Medal Winner - John D. Roberts

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Millenium Council
National Millennium Time Capsule
National Medal Winner

Roberts, John D., National Medal of Science, 1990
The development of instruments for chemical analysis specifically Arnold Beckman's contribution
"An enormous US contribution to science, particularly to chemistry in this millennium, has been the development of instruments for chemical analysis. This development has transformed research in chemistry world-wide and has had an absolutely major impact on medical science, not only in research, but in medical diagnosis and the operation of medical laboratories everywhere.

"For this, I think you should single out and honor Dr. Arnold O. Beckman...who started the instrumental revolution with the pH meter more than 60 years ago...which he first invented as a favor for a friend for use in a citrus processing plant in Southern California. A true forerunner of modern electrochemical instrumentation, Beckman's ‘acidimeter' simplified and expedited acidity and alkalinity measurements. It quickly became an indispensable tool in analytical chemistry...

"...Also in 1940, he introduced the Beckman DU Spectrophotometer, which revolutionized chemical analysis by simplifying tedious laboratory procedures. At the time, many assays were made by colorimetry and, in some cases, took up to a month to complete and were accurate only to about 25 percent. The DU quartz photoelectric spectrophotometer did the same analysis in minutes with 99.0 percent precision. Although new models were introduced through the years, thousands of original instruments are still in use throughout the world.

"The Helipot, also introduced by Beckman in 1940, was a variable resistance device similar to a radio volume control but far more precise. It was developed originally as a control for the Beckman pH meter but became an essential component of radar systems in World War II. Subsequently, the Helipot found application in a wide variety of electronic equipment, from computer and control systems to scientific instruments and home appliances.

"...three other persons made the seminal contributions to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), which followed about 15 years after Dr. Beckman's getting the instrumental revolution started. The first two key early players were Felix Bloch (Stanford) and Edward M. Purcell (Harvard), who received the Nobel Prize for their contributions. NMR has made possible studies in chemistry that were absolutely unimaginable before 1950, and every laboratory of significance has at least one..."

"The second enormous NBR contribution was made by the third person, Paul C. Lauterbur...through invention of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which has transformed medical diagnosis...

"...there is the laser, which is now ubiquitous, and reached some sort of an apogee this year with the coming award of the Nobel Prize to my colleague, Ahmed H. Zewail, for his use of unbelievably short laser pulses of a million trillionth os a second to investigate the earliest stages of chemical reactions."

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