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Varian A-60 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer 

  • after 1961
  • Manufactured by Varian Inc.
    Made in Palo Alto, California
  • 47 in. H x 41 in. W x 31 in. D
    Metal, plastic, paper
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • Gift of Dr. David Lankin
  • 97:06

Description

This console was one of the first made by Varian and was given to Stanford University under the condition that Varian employees and technicians would be able to train on it. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is the base technology used in the development of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology. The A60 was the model used by Paul Lauterbur in research for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2003.

The paper attached to the front of the console demonstrates the relationship between instrumentation and the college laboratory:

WARNING: THIS MACHINE SUBJECT TO BREAKDOWNS DURING PERIODS OF CRITICAL NEEDS.

A special circuit in the machine called a “Crisis Detector” senses the operator's emotional state in terms of how desperate he or she is to use the machine. The Crisis Detector then creates a malfunction proportional to the desperation of the operator. Threatening the machine with violence only aggravates the situation. Likewise, attempts to use any other machine may cause it to malfunction too: they belong to the same union.

Another admonition is attached to the front of the console:

KEEP COOL AND SAY NICE THINGS TO THE MACHINE: NOTHING ELSE SEEMS TO WORK

Spectrophotometers determine the composition of a solution (or the concentration of certain substances within a solution) by measuring how the solution absorbs a particular wavelength of light. By varying the wavelengths in each measurement one can take a spectrum of a solution and ascertain the composition. NMR is a type of spectroscopy that uses radio frequencies as opposed to light like other spectrometers. In 1946 two teams headed by Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell simultaneously refined NMR techniques for use in liquids and solids. Bloch and Purcell shared the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics.

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