Visionary leaders, groundbreaking results

The history of our company is a history of innovation spanning more than eight decades.

From a small operation in the rear of a garage in Pasadena, California, to its recognition today as a world leader in clinical diagnostics and life science research, our company owes its success to three men of vision who revolutionized science and medicine: Arnold O. Beckman, Ph.D., and brothers Wallace and Joseph Coulter.

On the American west coast, our company’s story begins with a groundbreaking, yet simple, invention by Dr. Arnold O. Beckman in the early 1930s. He found a solution for determining the precise measurement of pH in lemon juice—the acidimeter, or pH meter. The manual, colorimetric methods in use at the time did not work well because the preservative used on lemons interfered with them. Instead, Dr. Beckman suggested a design for a vacuum-tube amplifier, combining principles of chemistry and electricity in a simple instrument that could be used by non-scientists.

By 1935, Dr. Beckman sold the first commercial pH meter. Within 25 years, the pH meter, as well as the DU spectrophotometer—considered the scientific equivalent of the Model T—and the helipot potentiometer, found thousands of applications in science, industry and medicine. Dr. Beckman’s instruments simplified tedious laboratory procedures, increased analytical precision and transformed chemical analysis.

Meanwhile—halfway across the country—in Chicago, Illinois, Wallace Coulter was hard at work on his own groundbreaking research. In the early 1950s, he discovered the Coulter Principle, the most widely used method for counting and sizing microscopic particles suspended in a fluid. His method has been called the first viable basis for flow cytometry, and from it grew an industry that forever changed the world of diagnostic medical research.

Wallace and his brother, Joseph, founded Coulter Electronics in 1958 and relocated the business to Miami, Florida, in 1961.

Technological and geographic growth

  • For both Beckman Instruments and Coulter Electronics, a series of acquisitions in the 1950s and 1960s complemented and expanded the business
  • The 1970s saw tremendous expansion in both products and facilities, with new sites in Europe. Beckman Instruments opened a sales unit in China
  • Operations in the 1980s and 1990s focused on developing laboratory systems for biological analysis and transforming technology into solutions for clinical laboratories
  • Beckman acquired the Access product line from Sanofi Diagnostics in 1996 to add immunoassay to the company's diagnostics product offering
  • Beckman acquired Coulter Corporation in 1997, adding hematology, flow cytometry and hemostasis product lines, giving the company the broadest portfolio of laboratory testing instruments available from one source and creating Beckman Coulter
  • The Olympus Diagnostics Systems acquisition in 2009 added ultra-high throughput clinical chemistry systems, extending product breadth and geographic reach
  • Acquired by Danaher in 2011, Beckman Coulter continues to be a world leader in clinical diagnostics and life science research

Continuing the founders' legacies today

As Dr. Beckman once stated, "When you're faced with the necessity to do something, that's a stimulus to invention.”

For more than 80 years, scientists and clinicians have turned to us for answers to tough challenges, and found them, time and again. That’s because our actions—throughout the organization, at every level—are guided by the singular goal of our founders: to create the world's most efficient laboratories and move healthcare forward.

For our top competitors, biomedical testing is one business among many; for us, it is our sole focus. In today's market, we are one of the few participants with full capacity to design, develop, manufacture, sell and service our products. This focus allows us to share in the mission of our customers—this is what partners do.