Paul A. Wilks

Paul Wilks

Through his innovative designs and many publications, Paul A. Wilks was a universally recognized authority on infrared (IR) spectroscopy, credited with making IR spectroscopy more widely used in academic, industrial, and research applications. Wilks pioneered the commercial development of IR-absorption cells and the commercial application of attenuated total reflection, one of today’s most widely used sampling methods. He also played a leading role in the evolution of gas-chromatography (GC) IR; his light-pipe modification of the Perkin-Elmer 137 IR created the first IR spectrometer dedicated to GC-IR work. Wilks also recognized the importance of circular variable filters, which were used at Wilks Enterprises to create a series of small, portable gas analyzers that were adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to monitor toxic gases in the workplace.

Wilks’s long-term objective had been to move IR technology out of the laboratory and into the real world of process monitoring and field analysis, and eventually into ordinary household use. Wilks was an active member of the analytical instruments community for more than half a century, and in 1954 he helped found the Coblentz Society, which honored him with the prestigious Williams-Wright Award in 1981. Wilks exhibited at more than 50 consecutive Pittcon conferences since its second meeting in 1951, and he received the Pittcon Heritage Award in 2004.

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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