Digital Collections

Photograph of Paul A. Wilks

Oral history interview with Paul A. Wilks

  • 2002-Oct-29

Oral history interview with Paul A. Wilks

  • 2002-Oct-29

Paul A. Wilks, Jr. begins the interview by discussing his early years and family life in Springfield, Massachusetts. After graduating from Springfield Technical High School, Wilks went to Harvard University, where he majored in engineering. In 1945, he began working at Perkin-Elmer, Inc. Wilks worked as an assembler before becoming marketing director in 1952.

In 1957, Wilks left Perkin-Elmer and, with Charles W. Warren, founded the Connecticut Instrument Company, a company that manufactured accessories for the infrared industry. Wilks and Warren sold their company to R. Bowling Barnes in 1962. After working for the Barnes Engineering Company for a year as commercial products manager, Wilks left to form the Wilks Scientific Corporation. This company manufactured a variety of spectroscopy products. Wilks hired Anthony C. Gilby, an infrared spectroscopist from England, who helped in the development of these products.

This company was sold to the Foxboro Company in the 1970s, and Wilks managed the Wilks division of the company until 1979. After leaving Foxboro, Wilks founded the General Analysis Corporation to market products that monitored workspace environments. The company was unable to create a market in this area and changed its focus towards producing products for other industries, such as the beverage industry. Wilks decided to retire in 1993 and General Analysis was eventually sold to OI Corporation. Although theoretically retired, Wilks started another company in the 1990s, Wilks Enterprise, Inc. This company continues Wilks' efforts to produce applicable products based on infrared spectroscopy and other technologies. Wilks concludes the interview with reflections on the state of infrared technology and thoughts about his career.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 49 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Arthur Daemmrich is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School and a senior research fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. His research examines science, medicine, and the state, with a focus on advancing theories of risk and regulation through empirical research on the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and chemical sectors. At HBS he also plays an active role in an interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiative, advancing scholarship and developing applied lessons for the business of creating and delivering health services and health-related technologies. Daemmrich was previously the director of the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He earned a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University in 2002 and has held fellowships at the Social Science Research Council/Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. He has published widely on pharmaceutical and chemical regulation, biotechnology business and policy, innovation, and history of science.

David C. Brock is a senior research fellow with the Center for Contemporary History and Policy at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. As a historian of science and technology, he specializes in the history of semiconductor science, technology, and industry; the history of instrumentation; and oral history. Brock has studied the philosophy, sociology, and history of science at Brown University, the University of Edinburgh, and Princeton University.In the policy arena Brock recently published Patterning the World: The Rise of Chemically Amplified Photoresists, a white-paper case study for the Center’s Studies in Materials Innovation. With Hyungsub Choi he is preparing an analysis of semiconductor technology roadmapping, having presented preliminary results at the 2009 meeting of the Industry Studies Association.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0267

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • June 16, 1923
  • Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
  • October 11, 2008
  • Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1941 Springfield Technical High School
1944 Harvard University BS Engineering

Professional Experience

Perkin-Elmer Corporation

  • 1944 to 1952 Assembler/Designer
  • 1952 to 1957 Director, Marketing

Connecticut Instrument Corporation

  • 1957 to 1962 Co-Founder and Assistant CEO

Barnes Engineering Company

  • 1962 to 1963 Manager, Commercial Products

Wilks Scientific Corporation

  • 1963 to 1977 Founder and CEO

Foxboro (Firm)

  • 1977 to 1979 Manager, Foxboro Wilks Division

General Analysis Corporation

  • 1979 to 1993 Founder and CEO
  • 1993 to 1999 Member, Board of Directors

Wilks Enterprise, Inc.

  • 1997 Founder and CEO


Year(s) Award
1981 Williams-Wright Award, Coblentz Society
2016 Pittcon Heritage Award, Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy and the Chemical Heritage Foundation

Cite as

See our FAQ page to learn how to cite an oral history.

PDF — 301 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

6 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads