Arnold Beckman Dead At 104 | May 24, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 21 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 21 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 24, 2004

Arnold Beckman Dead At 104

Department: ACS News
Beckman
Credit: PHOTO BY ERNEST CARPENTER
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Beckman
Credit: PHOTO BY ERNEST CARPENTER

Arnold O. Beckman, legendary chemical inventor and philanthropist, died in his sleep on May 18. He was 104.

Though Beckman had celebrated his 100th birthday "in good spirits," his health had declined in recent years, and so "it is with both sadness and gladness that we all hear of his peaceful death," says Arnold Thackray, president of the Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Beckman was the inventor of numerous chemical instruments, most notably the pH meter, and founder of the megacorporation Beckman Instruments.

"Beckman led an instrumentation revolution that changed the course of chemistry and biology in the 20th century," says Harry B. Gray, Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology. "In particular, his invention of the quartz spectrophotometer, stimulated much new work at the interface of the two fields."

Also known for his philanthropy, Beckman founded the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation, which disburses millions of dollars to scientific endeavors each year.

Beckman was born in 1900 in Cullom, Ill., the son of a blacksmith. He received his Ph.D. from Caltech, where he taught from 1928 to 1940. Beckman and his wife Mabel, who died in 1989, raised two children: a daughter, G. Patricia, and a son, Arnold S. He received numerous awards during his life, including the National Medal of Science in 1989.

"He was a true, true, hero," says Thackray, who coauthored Beckman's biography. "He was someone who transformed our world for the better, and everyone in the modern scientific world owes him a considerable debt of gratitude."

 
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