$5 Million Gift Honors Theodore Brown and Arnold Beckman

The gift will establish the Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Annual Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, founded by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign alumnus Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, has presented the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology with a $5 million gift to establish the Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Annual Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science.

“We are grateful for this gift from the Beckman Foundation, which continues Arnold Beckman’s legacy of innovative interdisciplinary science,” said Barbara Wilson, acting chancellor at Illinois. “This gift enables the next generation of researchers to continue to enhance research across multiple fields, as Beckman and Ted Brown had envisioned more than 25 years ago.”

The gift honors Dr. and Mrs. Beckman, who in 1985 provided a gift of $40 million to create the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology on the Illinois campus. The Beckman’s gift was the largest donation to a public university at that time.

The gift also honors Theodore “Ted” Brown, the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. Brown co-wrote the initial proposal for an interdisciplinary research institute, which incorporated many features and organizational concepts new to academia at that time. Brown and Beckman were instrumental in achieving the vision of presenting an innovative space in which disciplines, ranging from the physical and life sciences and engineering to social and behavioral sciences, could not only co-exist but meld together to initiate and pursue innovative interdisciplinary projects of unprecedented scope.

This generous endowment by the Beckman Foundation further underscores the importance of world-class interdisciplinary research and the vision of Drs. Beckman and Brown to make the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois a world leader. - Art Kramer, Beckman Institute Director

The Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellowship will provide for three-year fellowships to postdoctoral students affiliated with the Beckman Institute, beginning with the class of 2016. In the spring of 2016, the Beckman-Brown Lecture on Interdisciplinary Science will feature world-class leaders in interdisciplinary science.

“This generous endowment by the Beckman Foundation further underscores the importance of world-class interdisciplinary research and the vision of Drs. Beckman and Brown to make the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois a world leader,” said Art Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute.

“We are truly pleased to be able to honor the significant achievements of these two great scientists with this gift, and to help continue the support of outstanding postdoctoral fellows in interdisciplinary research at the Beckman Institute,” said Anne Hultgren, executive director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.

About Theodore Brown and Arnold O. Beckman

During his years as a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois, Theodore “Ted” Brown enjoyed a multifaceted career as a research scholar, author, administrator, and teacher. After earning his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1956, Brown joined the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois in the same year.

He earned numerous awards and served in other important roles on the University of Illinois campus, including vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate College (1980–1986) and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs (1992–1993) before retiring in 1993. In addition to his roles as interim director and then director of the Beckman Institute at Illinois, he also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation during 1994-2008.

His research interests include inorganic and organometallic chemistry, with an emphasis on the kinetics and mechanism of reactions. However, following his retirement, his interests shifted to the cognitive, philosophical, and social aspects of the scientific enterprise, reflecting his experiences at the Beckman Institute. Brown has written several books, including Making Truth: Metaphor in Science (2003) and Imperfect Oracle: The Authority and Moral Authority of Science in Society (2009). He is co-author of the general chemistry text Chemistry: The Central Science, originally published in 1977 and now in its 13th edition.

Arnold O. Beckman is an alumnus of the University of Illinois, receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1922 and a master's degree in physical chemistry in 1923. He joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology in 1928 after receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry from that institution. In 1934, at the request of a friend, Dr. Beckman invented a portable meter for measuring the acidity of California lemons. Scientists working in a variety of fields quickly recognized the importance of the “Beckman acidimeter.” The pH meter, as it came to be called, was the first of a series of successful inventions that made possible a revolution in scientific instrumentation. National Technical Laboratories was founded in 1935 (and renamed Beckman Instruments, Inc., in 1950), and pioneering advances in measurement technology soon followed. These included the helipot, a precision electrical resistance device, and the DU spectrophotometer, which measured visible and ultraviolet light transmission. In 1982, Beckman Instruments merged with the SmithKline Corporation to form SmithKline Beckman.

By 1989, SmithKline had decided that Beckman Instruments’ business did not fit with their corporation, and it was spun off again as Beckman Instruments. In 1997 Beckman Instruments merged with Coulter Corporation of Miami, another leader in biomedical instrumentation, to form Beckman Coulter Corporation. As Beckman’s instrument empire evolved beyond his personal control, he became free to devote more time to his philanthropic activities.

Dr. Beckman and his wife Mabel M. Beckman contributed nearly $350 million to the advancement of research and education. Throughout her life, Mrs. Beckman was deeply involved in Beckman Instruments, Inc., and shared Dr. Beckman's devotion to philanthropic causes. The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois is a fine example of their generosity, and other testaments to the Beckmans’ beneficence can be seen in the creation of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology, the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California at Irvine, Stanford University’s Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Engineering, the Center for the History of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, and Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope, an institute dedicated to the prevention and cure of life-threatening diseases.


This article is part of the Fall 2015 Synergy Issue, a publication of the Communications Office of the Beckman Institute.