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Robert J. Manning

  • Born: January 12, 1920, Kansas City, Kansas
  • Died: February 15, 2004

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0239
Interview Date: February 19, 2002
Location: Fullerton, California
Interviewers: David C. Brock and Gerald E. Gallwas
No. of pages: 30
Sponsor: Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation
Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

Robert J. Manning begins the interview with a brief sketch of his educational background. In 1948, after graduating with a M.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Manning spent time in the United States Navy researching rocket fuel. From there Manning obtained a position at Beckman Instruments, Inc., where he remained until his retirement in 1986. Working in the application engineering department at Beckman, Manning gravitated toward infrared instrumentation, and eventually became the national president for the Society of Applied Spectroscopy. Having spent thirty-three years at Beckman Instruments, Manning has a valuable wealth of knowledge about nuances in development of landmark instruments from Beckman, which he details throughout the interview. In 1960, Manning moved his family to Chicago where he started an applications laboratory at Beckman's offices there. Manning moved back to California in 1963 to enjoy his new position as product line manager of ultraviolet instruments, before returning to the laboratory, where he would spend the rest of his career. Education and information sharing were paramount to Manning, and he traveled the country educating people about spectroscopy, via workshops, lecture series, and summer courses at various universities. Manning concludes the interview with reflections on his career and home life.


1943 B.S., Chemistry, St. Benedict's College
1948 M.S., Chemistry, University of Missouri, Kansas City

  Professional Experience

United States Naval Ordnance Test Station, China Lake

1948 - 1953 Research Chemist

Beckman Instruments, Inc.

1953 - 1960 Senior Applications Chemist

Beckman Instruments, Inc.

1960 - 1963 Regional Applications Chemist

Beckman Instruments, Inc.

1963 - 1968 Ultraviolet Product Line Manager

Beckman Instruments, Inc.

1968 - 1973 Principal Application Chemist

Beckman Instruments, Inc.

1973 - 1986 Senior Scientist, Beckman Technical Education Center

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Career and Discussion of Instrumentation at Beckman Instruments, Inc. 1

Educational background. United States Naval Ordnance Test Station research on rocket fuel. Starting a career at Beckman Instruments, Inc. Discussion of Beckman instruments such as the DK, DU, and Model B.

Applications and Marketing of Beckman Instrumentation 9

Ultraviolet instrumentation and competitors to Beckman spectrophotometers. H. Howard Cary and Beckman Instruments. Selling the DU spectrophotometer. The emerging importance of the near infrared region in spectroscopy and use of the DK spectrophotometer.

Career Moves at Beckman and Educational Initiatives in Spectroscopy 15

Establishing an applications laboratory in Chicago. Product line manager for ultraviolet instrumentation. Educational initiatives in spectroscopy. Formation of the Southern California Society for Applied Spectroscopy.

Conclusion 19

The role of the application engineering department in developing new instrumentation at Beckman. Lee Cahn's departure from Beckman Instruments. Arnold O. Beckman, Inc. and the production of oxygen meters. Reflections on career and home life.

Notes 25

Index 26

  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.

Gerald E. Gallwas

Gerald E. Gallwas was a member of the original team in the mid 1960s that founded and managed the growth of what became the clinical diagnostic business of Beckman Instruments. As the business grew, he served in many roles from new product development to directing clinical field trials in the United States, Europe, and Japan. This led to an extensive involvement with professional and trade organizations as well as regulatory agencies. He retired after thirty years of service as director of program management overseeing new product development programs.

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