Oral history interview with Arthur L. Babson

Oral history interview with Arthur L. Babson

  • 2011-Dec-06 (First session)
  • 2011-Dec-08 (Second session)
Photograph of Arthur L. Babson

Arthur L. Babson grew up in Essex Fells, New Jersey. Babson began college and the Army Special Training Reserve Program at Rutgers University but was expelled for missing a single class. He then worked in a laboratory at American Dyewood until he was drafted. From Camp Kilmer he ended up in Japan, shortly after the atomic bombs were dropped; there he worked as a cook and on a wire crew -- adding an instrument to his truck to assist with wire deployment and re-coiling -- and he served on guard duty, where he developed booby-traps to alert him to anyone's approach. When he left the service and returned to the United States, he matriculated into Cornell University, where his father and brother had gone. He majored in zoology, took biochemistry, and decided to attend Rutgers. He worked on protein nutrition in cancerous rats in James Allison's lab and decided to get a PhD with Allison.

Babson accepted a good offer from Ulrich Solmssen to work at Warner-Chilcott Laboratories back in New Jersey. It was there that Babson's career in diagnostics was launched. Tasked with developing a serum standard, he and his assistants invented Versatol, then Versatol-E (enzyme), which were successful for years; then they invented PhosphaTabs. Automating clinical chemistry started to emerge as Babson's core interest and it became a clear program at Warner-Lambert, though Warner-Lambert's Robot Chemist lost out to Technicon's AutoAnalyzer. At Warner, Babson moved up in administration, moved away from the bench, and became Vice President of Research for General Diagnostics.
Babson started his own company, Babson Research Laboratories, in his home. He patented a refinement of Blood Gas Control. He consulted for Ortho Diagnostics. Then he began work on a device to automate immunoassays (later named IMMULITE). Babson designed the Cardiac Risk Profiler to automate lipid profile diagnosis, but he was never able to sell it. From Babson's perspective, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act ended any hope for the CRP due to greater regulations for laboratories.

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  • 245 pages
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Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
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  • Science History Institute
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  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.

Sarah L. Hunter-Lascoskie earned a BA in history at the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in public history at Temple University. Her research has focused on the ways in which historical narratives are created, shaped, and presented to diverse groups. Before Sarah joined CHF, she was the Peregrine Arts Samuel S. Fels research intern and Hidden City project coordinator. Sarah worked both in the Center for Oral History and the Institute for Research at CHF and led projects that connected oral history and public history, producing a number of online exhibits that used oral histories, archival collections, and other materials. She also contributed to CHF’s Periodic Tabloid and Distillations.

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Interviewee biographical information

Born
  • March 03, 1927
  • Orange, New Jersey, United States
Died
  • October 24, 2016
  • Mendham, New Jersey, United States

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1950 Cornell University BS Zoology
1953 Rutgers University PhD Biochemistry

Professional Experience

University of Iowa

  • 1953 to 1954 Postdoctorate with Theodore Winnick, Radiation Research Laboratory

Warner-Chilcott

  • 1954 to 1962 Senior Scientist
  • 1962 to 1967 Senior Research Associate
  • 1967 to 1970 Director of Diagnostics Research
  • 1970 to 1977 Director of Diagnostics Research and Development
  • 1977 to 1980 Vice President, Research and Development, General Diagnostics Division

Babson Research Laboratories

  • 1980 to 1987 President

Cirrus Diagnostics (formerly Pegasus Technologies)

  • 1987 to 1992 President, Chairman, and CSO

Diagnostic Products Corporation

  • 1992 to 2006 Chief Scientist

Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics

  • 2006 to 2012 Chief Scientist

Honors

Year(s) Award
1975 Gerulat Award, American Association for Clinical Chemistry
1997 Inventor of the Year, New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame
1998 Van Slyke Award, American Association for Clinical Chemistry
2010 Siemens Lifetime Achievement Award

Cite as

Arthur L. Babson, interviewed by Sarah L. Hunter-Lascoskie and David J. Caruso in Flanders, New Jersey on December 6, 2011. Philadelphia: Science History Institute, n.d. Oral History Transcript 0681. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/r494vm198.

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PDF — 5.7 MB
Babson_AL_0681_FULL.pdf

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

2 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads