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The Passing of an Icon
James L. Waters
(1925 – 2021)
On behalf of the entire Pittcon Organizing Committee, our staff, and our global network of laboratory scientists, instrumentation companies, and laboratory supply companies, I extend our sincere condolences on the death of our beloved friend and mentor, James L. Waters.
Jim was a legendary inventor and a pioneer in liquid chromatography. He was also a staunch believer in the power of education and was an early supporter of STEM initiatives. More details about Jim and his distinguished career can be obtained from the Waters Corporation press release entitled, Waters Corporation Celebrates the Life and Legacy of its Founder, Jim Waters.
Jim was far more than the revered founder of one of our major exhibiting companies, he was the industry leader who best understood the premise upon which Pittcon exists: To serve as the crucible within which scientists whose charge it is to identify important discoveries can freely interact with the instrumentation companies that build upon such discoveries and translate them into practical equipment; to provide a showcase to the laboratory scientists who depend on a continuous flow of new instrumentation to help them solve their daily scientific challenges. Jim understood the importance of these dynamic interactions, which have been a part of the Pittcon paradigm that has served our scientific disciplines for well over 70 years.
In fact, Jim has been a beloved part of Pittcon for almost 60 years. He introduced the first Waters Associates GPC at our 1964 conference. In 1969, Waters Associates introduced their first LC, in 1992, Waters introduced software for chromatography, and in 1994, they introduced HPLC columns for drug assays and a benchtop LC-MS. To this day, the company Jim founded has utilized Pittcon as a springboard for launching its new product lines and showcasing its continued leadership in serving our scientific industries.
In 1987, he shared his vision with Pittcon on the creation of an annual symposium focused on the identification of an instrumental technique and the coalition of basic scientists and instrumentation companies that brought this technique to laboratories around the globe. Thanks to generous annual support from Mr. and Mrs. Waters, the James L. Waters Symposium series, Pioneers in the Development and Application of Analytical Instrumentation, has been one of the highlights of Pittcon’s annual technical program. The annual symposia have recognized innovators in the conception, development, implementation, and commercialization of scientific instrumentation of major and established significance.
In 1994, Jim was one of three keynote speakers to reflect on the significance of Pittcon as part of our 45th anniversary conference and exhibition.
The Pittcon Hall of Fame was created in 1999 as part of our 50th anniversary celebration. Jim was present with his wife, Faith, at that year’s Pittcon Opening Ceremony, during which he was inducted as one of the 18 inaugural members of this prestigious group of entrepreneurs who created the companies upon which Pittcon was founded.
It was a truly memorable occasion to have had Jim participate in our Pittcon 2021 virtual conference this past March, as we responded to the extraordinary times brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we were planning to record Jim this summer as part of an introductory video piece for the 2022 James L. Waters Symposium at Pittcon 2022, we are now planning an appropriate technical program spotlight as a tribute to this iconic member of the storied Pittcon history.
As a retired member of the global firm that Jim created, I send my personal condolences to Jim’s family and to his extensive network of devoted friends and colleagues.
I hope that you will be able to join us in Atlanta, Georgia, from March 5-9, 2022, to participate in Pittcon’s tribute to this remarkable scientist and entrepreneur that so many of us knew as a friend.
2022 Pittcon President
The Pittcon Hall fo Fame will be located in the main lobby at Pittcon 2022.
James L. Waters studied physics at Columbia University before serving as a naval officer in the Second World War. After the war Waters went to work for Baird Associates, an instrument manufacturer. At Baird he read U.S. government reports about instrumentation in Germany during the war and was inspired to set up his own company, J. L. Waters, to make infrared gas analyzers based on a design by a German scientist. In 1955 Waters sold this company to Mine Safety Appliance Company for $200,000 and fifteen years of royalties at 3 percent. The royalties from this sale enabled Waters to form another business, Waters Associates, in 1958.
Initially, Waters Associates manufactured made-to-order specialty instruments and gel permeation chromatographs, but in 1968 the company decided to focus on chromatography, marketing its first liquid chromatograph in 1970. Nobel laureate Robert Woodward was just one eminent scientist to use a Waters Associates liquid chromatograph, with Waters coming to prominence in liquid chromatography across the 1970s. In 1980 Waters Associates merged with Millipore Company. The company was split off again in 1993 as Waters Corporation. The company remains a world leader in liquid chromatography, thermal analysis, and mass spectrometry, but Waters is no longer associated with the enterprise. Since 1982 he has focused on venture-capital opportunities. Waters is also chairman of Cetek Corporation, a drug discovery company. He lives in Framingham, Massachusetts.