James Waters and His Liquid Chromatography People: A Personal Perspective

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Patrick D. McDonald, Ph.D.
Waters Whitepaper
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White Papers

Written to celebrate the golden jubilee of The Chromatographic Society [UK], 1956-2006, the award of the ChromSoc Martin Gold Medal to Jim Waters on Nov. 21, 2006 [see link to TRIAD Symposia Program below], and in anticipation of Waters 50th anniversary, 1958-2008, this essay illustrates the history of innovations at Waters that have had enormous impact on the practice of liquid chromatography.

Excerpt: Opening paragraphs:

A golden jubilee, a celebratory period provided by ancient law every 50 years — what better time to stand in the threshold of our discipline, like Janus, looking at once to both the past and the future. We are fortunate, as was Newton, to stand on the shoulders of giants whose perception, perspiration, and perseverance prompted a cycle of revolution and evolution in the practice of chromatography, leading it to its present position as a central science [1]. I am pleased to have this opportunity to review the role of Waters, both the man and his company [2], in some of the most fundamental developments that have determined how we practice liquid chromatography today, and that are leading the way toward solving the significant separation problems of tomorrow.

So many of the important achievements in chromatography, unlike in other scientific fields, have been accomplished by industrial scientists and engineers, not university professors. Separation science, crossing the boundaries of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering, is perfectly mated to the interdisciplinary teamwork so strongly rooted in companies focused on uniting requisite resources to solve problems, create products, and partner with customers to meet their needs. Unfortunately, industrial inventors, unlike their academic colleagues, may perish if they publish, so they often labor in relative obscurity and disappear into the baseline of chromatographic history. A true entrepreneurial spirit—and a desire to make the world a better, safer place— pervades their best attempts to provide solutions that add value to, and have impact on, laboratory practice. In a sense, we in the analytical instrument industry are toolmakers. But revolutionary tools enable and challenge users to do what they were unable to do before. This activity then advances science in ways that truly improve our world.

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