The glass dumbbell in Beckman Instruments' oxygen analyzers came from the original design that Linus Pauling submitted to the National Defense Research Committee in 1940. In this design, the glass dumbbell was suspended on a quartz fiber inside a magnetic field. When oxygen gas was attracted to the magnetic field, its movement would cause the dumbbell to twist, and that twist could be measured, indicating how much oxygen was present. When Beckman began producing Pauling's design, however, the dumbbell proved incredibly difficult to manufacture by hand, prompting one of the engineers on the project -- Herb Sargents -- to invent a tiny, mechanized glass blowing machine. The glass dumbbell remained at the heart of Beckman Instruments' oxygen anaylzers for decades to come.
Developed from a Linus Pauling design during WWII, the technology behind Beckman Instruments’ oxygen analyzers ended up doing such diverse jobs as monitoring astronauts’ respiration, maintaining packaged food safety, and preventing blindness in newborn babies.
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Hixson and Jorgensen, and Beckman Instruments. “Smart Dumbbell.,” 1966. Beckman Historical Collection, Box 49, Folder 24. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/c534fn959.
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