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Michael A. Kelly

  • Born: December 14, 1936, Roswell, New Mexico

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0253
Interview Date: March 19, 2002
Locations: Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, New Orleans, Louisiana
Interviewers: David C. Brock and Arthur Daemmrich
No. of pages: 27
Sponsor: Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy
Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy

  Abstract of Interview

Michael A. Kelly begins the interview with a discussion of his childhood and education. Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, Kelly became interested in radio and television electronics at a young age. After high school, Kelly earned an ROTC scholarship at UCLA, and obtained his bachelor's degree in engineering from that University in 1959. He later earned his master's degree in electrical engineering from Brooklyn Polytechnic, and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1968, Kelly began as a research scientist for the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP). After three years, he was promoted to manager of R&D for electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA). While there, he developed and refined the first ESCA instruments for commercial use. Kelly left HP in 1976, and became the president of Surface Science Laboratories; a company that designed and marketed ESCA instrumentation. In 1988, Surface Science merged with the Kevex Corporation, and Kelly became the president and chief operating officer. He stay with Kevex for about a year, but when the company was bought-out by Thermo Vacuum Generators, Inc., Kelly took a teaching position at Stanford University. He currently teaches materials science at the University, and is working on some new analytical techniques. Kelly concludes the interview with a discussion of his impact on ESCA instrumentation, and the importance of innovation in society.


1959 B.S., Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles
1963 M.S.E.E., Electrical Engineering, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute
1968 Ph.D., Nuclear Physics, University of California, Berkeley

  Professional Experience

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

1964 - 1968 Electrical Engineer, Research Scientist

Hewlett-Packard Company

1968 - 1971 Research Scientist

Hewlett-Packard Company

1971 - 1976 Research and Development Manager, ESCA

Surface Science Laboratories

1976 - 1985 President

Kevex Corporation

1985 - 1989 President and Chief Operating Officer

Stanford University

1989 - Present Consulting Professor, Department of Materials

Stanford University

1989 - Present Consulting Professor, Department of Materials


1979 IR(100) Award for an imaging, photon counting detector
1982 IR(100) Award for a high spatial resolution XPS spectrometer
1986 Glenn T. Seaborg Laboratory Special Award for a soft x-ray window, Kevex Corporation

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Childhood and Education 1

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico. Interest in radio and television repair in high school. Obtaining ROTC scholarship to attend UCLA. Earned master's degree at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Working in the medical school with Marcel Verzeano. The University of California at Berkeley. Writing his dissertation.

Career 4

Joining the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) in 1968. Building an NMR box. Developing an atomic fluorescence spectrometer. Initial involvement with ESCA instrumentation. David A. Shirley. Attending PITTCON conferences.

Reflections on Hewlett-Packard 9

HP's acquisition of the F&M Scientific Corporation. HP's work with GC/MS instruments. James L. Waters. Discussion of HP's gamble with ESCA techonolgy. Kai Seigbahn's involvement with HP's ESCA program. Becoming engineering manager of ESCA project in 1971. Industrial clients of the ESCA instrument. The ESCA market.

After HP 15

Working at Surface Science Laboratories. Surviving without HP's machine division. Marketing Surface Science products. Robert L. Cheney. Description of 1981 instrument. Merging with the Kevex Corporation.

Conclusion 20

Current work at Stanford University. Reflections on the impact of ESCA during his career. Discussing the importance of innovation.

Notes 23

Index 24

  About the Interviewer

David C. Brock

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.

In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Arthur Daemmrich

Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.

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