History of Beckman Coulter

Beckman Coulter's commitment to innovation dates back to its origin in 1935 when Dr. Beckman sold the first commercial pH meter. Within 25 years, the pH meter and newly introduced DU spectrophotometer and helipot potentiometer found thousands of applications in science, industry and medicine. 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 and the opening of 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 labs. 

Beckman and Coulter combine two of the best known brand names in laboratories. We adopted our current name in April 1998, changing from Beckman Instruments, Inc. to Beckman Coulter, Inc. (“the Company”), to reflect the October 1997 acquisition of Coulter Corporation.

Beckman Instruments, Inc., founded by Dr. Arnold O. Beckman in 1935, entered the laboratory market with the world’s first pH meter, an electronic instrument used to measure pH (acidity or alkalinity). The company became a publicly traded corporation in 1952. In 1968, Beckman Instruments, Inc. expanded its laboratory instrument focus to include healthcare applications in clinical diagnostics. We were acquired by SmithKline Corporation to form SmithKline Beckman Corporation in 1982, operating as a subsidiary of SmithKline Beckman until 1989, when we once again became a publicly owned company.

Coulter Corporation was founded by Wallace and Joseph Coulter in 1958 as a private company, remaining under the control of the Coulter family until acquired by Beckman Instruments, Inc. in 1997. Coulter marketed the Coulter Counter, an instrument used to determine the distribution of red and white cells in blood. This instrument was based on the “Coulter Principle,” which was developed by Wallace Coulter in 1948 to automatically and electronically count and measure the size of particles. This proved to be the foundation of automated hematology.

The history of Beckman Coulter is one of innovation, beginning with Dr. Beckman's solution for determining the precise measurement of pH in lemon juice—the acidimeter, or pH meter. 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 sciences research, Beckman Coulter owes its success to three men of vision who revolutionized science and medicine: Arnold O. Beckman, Ph.D, and brothers Wallace and Joseph Coulter.

In 2012 Danaher purchased Beckman Coulter and divided the company into two operating companies, Diagnostics (HQ - Brea, CA) and Life Sciences (HQ – Indianapolis, IN). Beckman Coulter Life Sciences is a leader in scientific research instruments primarily serving the academia and pharma markets. The company also serves the clinical research market as well as applied markets such as agricultural, food and beverage, gas and oil, aerospace, among several others.

Since 1935, the world has turned to us for solutions to challenging problems, and we are proud to say we've solved many of them. Beckman Coulter's focus is to help create the world's most efficient laboratories that improve patient health and reduce the cost of care. For our top competitors, biomedical testing is one business among many; for Beckman Coulter, 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.