KGI Unveils Science Heritage Center
The Science Heritage Center showcases inventors Arnold Beckman and Wallace Coulter, whose pioneering analytical instruments revolutionized the bioscience and diagnostic industries.
"We want this exhibit to showcase analytical inventions and systems that changed the life science landscape," said Osborne, who was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to KGI.
The exhibit extends along the northern hallway and a portion of the eastern hallway in Building 517. Osborne hopes the exhibit will expand as more companies choose to have their inventions showcased as well.
Interactive video and audio will be added to help viewers better understand the importance and impact of the various displays. Eventually, Osborne would like high school students and college undergraduates to tour the exhibit in hopes of sparking their interest in translating advances in life science into innovative commercial products.
"It's a nice fit with KGI's strategy of preparing students, with a degree in science or engineering, for leadership careers in the life science industry," Osborne said.
The exhibit, arranged in chronological order, begins with the pH Meter invented by Beckman in 1935 to determine the pH level of lemon juice. His colleague, a chemist for the California Fruit Growers Exchange, wanted to make concentrated lemon juice and needed an accurate and rapid method of measuring the acidity of the juice.
The Beckman pH meter, which sparked a chemical revolution, was designated a National Historical Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in 2004.
Today, the Beckman pH meter is used in monitoring water quality, soil, sewer and waste disposal, plus food and beverage processing and blood analysis.
Other instruments in the exhibit include:
Oxygen analyzer: Beckman and Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling were working independently on prototypes of an analyzer to measure the oxygen content of air in submarines while at the California Institute of Technology in the early 1940s. They wound up collaborating, and the first model bearing both their names, which is on display in the exhibit, was shipped in 1943.
The first commercial oxygen analyzer was used in hospital incubators where premature babies were placed because their lungs were not fully developed. The air was enriched with oxygen to help them breathe, but tragically many infants went blind because the oxygen levels were too high and their retinas became oxidized. The oxygen analyzer helped hospital staff accurately monitor oxygen levels to reduce the risk of blindness.
DU Spectrophotometer: In 1940, Beckman produced the first affordable commercial spectrophotometer that revolutionized laboratory testing. Biological assays to determine the chemical makeup of solutions or substances that previously had taken weeks became available in minutes, thanks to this technology.
Spectrophotometry has a wide range of uses in research and industrial labs from understanding the photochemical properties of chromophores to measuring the vitamin content, color and nutrients in foods.
BUN Analyzer: The BUN analyzer released in 1971 provided rapid, convenient and accurate measures of urea nitrogen in blood, where abnormal levels indicated kidney malfunction.
DNA Sequencer: The first automated capillary electrophoresis system, shipped in 1989, was used to rapidly analyze DNA, amino acids and proteins, the basic building blocks of life. This was the primary technology that was used to sequence the human genome.
Centrifuge: A centrifuge with a V-shaped cutaway allows viewers to see the interior mechanics of the instrument that isolates and separates solid particles from fluids. The centrifuge is primarily used by hospital labs and blood banks to prepare blood samples for testing and by research labs to purify cells, proteins and nucleic acids.
First Automated Blood Cell Counter: Coulter invented a way to count and size particles using impedance measurements while working with the US Navy to improve paint adherence to the hulls of battleships. The first automated blood cell counter based on the Coulter Principal was introduced in 1949. It could count and measure blood cells at the rate of thousands per second providing greater speed, convenience and accuracy over the prevailing manual method using a microscope and hand counter.
Today, more than 95% of all blood cell counters are based on the Coulter Principle.
The Science Heritage Center exhibit of instruments is complemented by a series of colorful scientific posters on the bioscience breakthroughs that facilitated advances in the detection and prevention of disease.
By Elaine Regus