At Advanced Perimeter Systems Limited we have a passion for science and invention. As manufacturers of perimeter security systems we have our own in-house Research and Development team and every member, from our Technical Director to each trained technician, loves to be involved in electrical and electronic design.
So it is appropriate that today we celebrate the achievements of a genius inventor, whose scientific work the world would have never seen without the intervention of a most unusual fate 100 years ago. It is a remarkable story.
Arnold Orville Beckman was born on 10 April 1900 in Illinois and by 1918 was a promising science student. He was allowed to leave school early in order to work as a chemist and contribute to the First World War effort. Within a matter of months he enlisted in the United States Marines and soon after was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to await transit to participate in the war taking place in Europe. However, there was an unexpected train delay which resulted in another unit being sent in place of Beckman’s unit.
Back in the barracks Beckman’s unit members were counted into groups for selection to be sent to Russia as part of the war effort. Beckman missed out – selection was stopped just one space in front of him! So, despite his willingness to partake in not just one but two opportunities to fight in World War I, fate intervened and Beckman remained in the United States.
When Thanksgiving of 1918 arrived, he paid a visit to the local YMCA where he met 17-year-old Mabel Stone Meinzer who was helping to serve the food. Just a few days after, the Armistice was signed and the war was over. Mabel later became Arnold’s wife and Beckman went on to devote his working life to invention and scientific research. Aknowledged as a leading inventor of his time, he filed patents, founded companies and invested in many scientific projects.
Having developed new instruments for scientific analysis, Beckman was fascinated by the potential of computers and automation. He was one of the first to recognise that they could lead to the development of new and more advanced instruments. One of his companies developed the EASE analogue computer and before 1960 had signed contracts with aerospace and defence organisations such as Boeing and Lockheed.
Another one of his company divisions went on to create computer systems that could process telemetric radio data from satellites and spacecraft including the processing of the first photographs ever taken of the moon’s surface from a spacecraft.
On retirement Beckman and his wife Mabel devoted most of their time to philanthropy, becoming some of the most notable American philanthropists of the last century. Arnold himself lived into the 21st century and passed away at the age of 104, having lived an extraordinary life. He was born the son of a blacksmith, witnessed two World Wars, the birth of the space age and computerisation. In devoting his life to the ‘common good’ Beckman embraced the intervention of fate which had spared his life, echoing the words of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor AD161-180:
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”