Early Work Puts Arnold Beckman in Inventors Hall of Fame

Times Staff Writer

Orange County industrialist Arnold O. Beckman was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame on Sunday during a ceremony in Arlington, Va., for his invention two generations ago of a meter to measure acidity and alkalinity.

The founder of Fullerton-based Beckman Instruments Inc. attended the invitation-only induction and accepted a plaque and medallion from John R. Kirk Jr., president of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, during an afternoon gathering of about 300 guests.

A permanent exhibit featuring Beckman's portrait and a model of his original "acidimeter" will be on display in the hall, said Oscar Mastin, spokesman for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"This afternoon Mr. Beckman joined about 64 others in the Inventors Hall of Fame," Mastin said Sunday. "He's a charming man."

In accepting the honor, according to Mastin, Beckman "did say that 'necessity is the mother of invention.' "

The 86-year-old Beckman made his fortune from a series of inventions dating back to 1935, when he was still a member of the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. His acidimeter, for which he received a patent in 1936, enabled Southern California citrus processors to gauge the acidity of lemon juice.

The device was one of the first of many developed by Beckman Instruments Inc., which merged in 1982 with SmithKline Corp. of Philadelphia, becoming SmithKline Beckman Corp. Although Beckman has declined to say how much he realized from the SmithKline merger, estimates by industry analysts at the time ranged as high as $500 million.

A technological pioneer and philanthropist, Beckman has donated millions of dollars for research and facilities to UC Irvine and other institutions.

On Sunday, three other inventors were honored posthumously at the induction. The ceremonies have been held every February since the Hall of Fame was started in 1973, Mastin said.

Beckman, who was reported to be flying back to Orange County after the Sunday ceremony, could not be reached for comment.

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