Henry “Howard” Cary was born in Los Angeles in 1908 and graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1930. Early on he showed entrepreneurial flare as secretary and treasurer to H. G. Cary Corporation. Between 1932 and 1935 he was vice president and general manager of the Allied Pipe Production Corporation. In 1935 he joined Arnold O. Beckman at the National Technical Laboratories (now Beckman Instruments). During those years Cary helped chart the development of modern pH meters and the immensely successful 1941 Beckman DU spectrophotometer. Cary and Beckman disagreed on fundamental development issues relating to the DU spectrophotometer, with Beckman insisting on a single-beam instrument and Cary favoring a double-beam, high-end scanning and recording instrument. This disagreement prompted Cary to leave the National Technical Laboratories.
Along with George Downs and William Miller, Cary founded the Applied Physics Corporation. In 1947, twelve months after incorporation, the company brought out the Cary model 11, built of 5/8-inch-thick plate steel and weighing nearly 800 pounds. Seven years later he followed this with the Cary model 14, the first commercial ultraviolet-visible recording spectrophotometer, which enabled researchers for the first time to measure absorbencies into the infrared region.
One of the many instruments that Cary pioneered was the Raman spectrophotometer, smaller and easier to use than earlier models as well as one of the first instruments designed to record spectropolimetry and circular dichroism. Cary was a hands-on designer who was happy to customize his products for special applications, and in 1966 Varian Associates bought Applied Physics Corporation and renamed it Cary Instruments.
Howard Cary was very active in the industry and its associations. He was cofounder and first president of the Optical Society of California. He was also president of the Instrumentation Society of America and on the executive committee of the Western Spectroscopy Association. In 1958 he and Maurice Hasler were recipients of the distinguished Beckman Award in Chemical Instrumentation.
Cary model 14 fitted with goniometer accessory, ca. 1950s. Courtesy of Varian.