Origins: Birth of the pH Meter

Arnold O. Beckman was a Caltech alumnus (PhD ‘28), former faculty member, and trustee. He was also the founder of Beckman Instruments (now Beckman Coulter), a company that began with Beckman’s invention of the pH meter, now one of the most widely used pieces of laboratory equipment in the world.

The pH meter’s story started in 1934, when one of Beckman’s undergrad classmates from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Glen Joseph—who was then working for the California Fruit Growers Exchange—came to Beckman’s Caltech office with a lemon problem. Here is how Beckman recalled that encounter during a 1978 interview with Mary Terrall for the Caltech Oral Histories Project.

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