Robert W. Allington

Robert Allington

Robert W. Allington was born in Madison, Wisconsin. He developed an early interest in chemistry and electronics, building his first radio when he was thirteen years old and designing many other gadgets, including record players and a set of night-vision goggles, before entering the University of Nebraska–Lincoln at the age of sixteen. By 1961 Allington completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, despite being stricken with paralyzing polio in 1955. In 1957 he and a partner, Jake Schafer, started a part-time business repairing and building scientific instruments. An order for a fraction collector for liquid chromatography—an apparatus that collected sequentially separated chemicals from a chromatographic column into test tubes—convinced Allington and Schafer to form a full-time business manufacturing these and other instruments.

Isco was incorporated in 1958. The business started in Allington’s garage; by 1964, when Schafer quit the enterprise, the company had forty employees and annual sales in excess of $100,000. In the mid-1960s Isco discontinued manufacturing one-of-a-kind specialty machines and instead concentrated on a broad range of measuring instruments in two basic divisions, separation instruments and environmental instruments. Allington’s work in separation science—building devices that enable chemists and biochemists to separate and identify components in chemical samples—is recognized around the world. Isco’s UV absorbance detectors (as opposed to UV transmittance detectors) for separation by liquid chromatography were one of the company’s first major products. Isco’s environmental division, founded in 1969 at the dawn of the environmental movement, manufactured wastewater sampling devices, flow meters, and environmental chambers for engineers involved in pollution control.

By 2000 Isco had grown into a $60-million global enterprise. In 2004 Isco became part of Teledyne Technologies, creating Teledyne Isco, a world leader in analytical instrument technology.

Allington has published extensively on instrumentation and measurement methods; he has been granted more than 100 U.S. patents and over 160 foreign-registered patents. He received the 2005 Pittcon Heritage Award.

Hear It Firsthand

CHF’s Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields. Many of the oral histories in the collection belong to winners of CHF’s awards, including

  • Arnold Beckman, winner of the Othmer Gold Medal (2000)
  • Robert Allington, winner of the Pittcon Heritage Award (2005)
  • Carl Djerassi, winner of the Othmer Gold Medal (2000), the AIC Gold Medal (2004), and the Ullyot Public Affairs Lecturer (1995)
  • Gordon Cain, winner of the Petrochemical Heritage Award (1997)

Listen to their extraordinary stories today!

 

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