J. O. Jarrell

J. O. Jarrell

J. O. Jarrell, rarely called by his given name of Joshua Oscar, was introduced to scientific instruments before World War I as a salesman for the Topley Company, a local Boston dealer for Bausch and Lomb microscopes. He continued this line of work after the war, when he joined Hughes Owens Company, a supplier of microscopes and other products made by the Spencer Lens Company of Buffalo, New York. In 1926 Jarrell founded his own company—the Spencer Lens Company of New England—in Boston, Massachusetts, to service and sell Spencer lines in Boston. Jarrell hired an assistant, Carroll Ash, a technician who had manufactured microscopes and lenses for Spencer Lens in Buffalo.

In 1933 the American Optical Company bought the parent Spencer Lens Company. Jarrell adapted to this change by incorporating his company under a new name, Jarrell-Ash, in recognition of his technician’s efforts. Even during the Great Depression, Jarrell continued to look for new opportunities, which led to Jarrell-Ash becoming the New England agent for Adam Hilger Limited, a British spectrometer manufacturer. Jarrell sent his son, Richard, a graduate of MIT, to England to learn about servicing and maintaining spectrographs, and Jarrell-Ash shipped its first spectrograph—a 21-foot Wadsworth stigmatic grating spectrograph—in 1942. The company experienced steady growth during the 1940s, and other early products included a replicated grating and a direct-reading spectrometer. Jarrell-Ash spectrographs played a significant role in World War II, ensuring quality control of nickel for aircraft engines and performing uranium analysis for the Manhattan Project.

Jarrell died suddenly of pneumonia in 1943, and Richard Jarrell became the general manager of Jarrell-Ash, which continued to grow into a major instrument manufacturer.     

In 1968 Jarrell-Ash merged with Fisher Scientific Corporation and in 1981 became part of Allied Corporation (later Allied Signal Corporation). Eventually Allied sold its spectroscopy business to Thermo Electron, forming the Thermo Jarrel-Ash Corporation.


Richard Jarrell with the 21-foot Wadsworth stigmatic grating spectograph. Courtesy of Thermo Jarrell-Ash. Richard Jarrell with the 21-foot Wadsworth stigmatic grating spectograph.

Arnold O. Beckman

CHF’s Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry was started with a generous grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation in 1987.


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