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Photographs from the Perkin-Elmer-Applera Collection


Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Richard Perkin and Charles Elmer founded the Perkin-Elmer Corporation in 1937 as an optical design and consulting company specializing in optical systems for astronomical instruments. During World War II, Perkin-Elmer notably produced aerial camera lenses and high precision tank periscope prisms, products that effectively established its reputation as a preeminent source for military optics and electronics. Following the war, the company extended into the manufacture of precision analytical instruments, including infrared spectrometers, flame photometers, vapor fractometers, spectrophotometers, and other infrared analytical equipment. As the beneficiary of various government contracts for Research and Development, Perkin-Elmer expanded throughout the 1950s from its home base in Norwalk, Connecticut to include plants and offices in Chicago, New Orleans, Pasadena, and Zurich. Other significant expansions included the acquisition of Bodenseewerk Apparate und Machinenbau G.m.b.H., an optical and aircraft testing instrument plant in Ueberlingen/Bodensee, Germany in 1954 and the establishment of the Nuclear Magnetics Corporation as a new subsidiary of Perkin-Elmer in 1955. In the 1990s, Perkin-Elmer's growing focus on life science technologies led to a merger with Applied Biosystems, Inc. and a recapitalization as PE Corporation in 1999. PE Corporation subsequently sold off its analytical instruments business, as well as the Perkin-Elmer name, and rebranded itself as Applera Corporation in 2000.

This collection consists of print photographs and slides depicting the staff, facilities, and instrumentation of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, with the bulk of the photographs dating from the 1960s and 1970s. Photographs of instrumentation, including stratoscopes, atomic absorption and ultraviolet spectrophotometers, and gas chromatographs, form the core of the collection and include both staged publicity photographs and images of these instruments in use in various laboratory settings. Notably, many of the laboratory photographs include corresponding model numbers and type-written descriptions detailing the operation of the instrument and its use in the laboratory. Photographs from the Bodenseewerk Perkin-Elmer & Co. plant, which operated in Bodensee, Germany from 1954 to 2001, comprise a smaller sub-set of materials within the larger collection. Finally, portraits of Perkin-Elmer founders Richard Perkin and Charles Elmer, as well as other notable individuals including Tom Fahy, Ted Talmage, and Chester Nimitz, Jr., round out the collection.

A portion of this collection has been digitized and is available online in our Digital Collections:

Separated from the Perkin-Elmer-Applera Collection, 1943-1998 (bulk 1950-1989); Gift of the Applera Corporation, 2001.

Collection partially processed by Robert Hull in 2004. Object identification numbers were assigned to individual photographs up to item 314.

Science History Institute Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid created by Hillary S. Kativa (2014), encoded into EAD by Melanie Grear (2017) and edited by Alex Asal (2023).
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for reasearch purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Use Restrictions

To obtain reproductions and copyright information, contact:

Collection Inventory

People—Charles Elmer, Richard Perkin, Tom Fahy, Gaynor Kelley, Chester Nimitz, Jr. et al.; Employees and machine demonstrations (GB01:36.002-055), undated.
Box 1
Richard Perkin and Ted Talmage; Stratoscope models; Bodenseewerk Plant (aerial and interior); Model 125 Infrared Grating Spectrophotometer assembly and testing (GB01:36.056-106), undated.
Box 2
Instruments—Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer, Auroral Spectrograph, Gas Chromatograph, Infrared Spectrometer, et al. (GB01:36.107-159), undated.
Box 3
Instruments— Infrared Spectrophotometer, Analyzer Unit, Infrared Data Station, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer, et al. (GB01:36.160-209), undated.
Box 4
Instruments— Differential Scanning Calorimeter, Elemental Analyzer, Fluorescence Spectrophotometer, Gas Chromatograph (GB01:36.210-265), undated.
Box 5
Instruments— Grating Infrared Spectrophotometer, Atomic Spectrometry, et al. (GB01:36.266-314), undated. 13 Boxes.
Box 6
Physical Description

13 Boxes

Employees, undated.
Box 7
Events (outreach, family picnics, student-teacher symposium), undated.
Box 8
Facilities (Bodenseewerk, Costa Mesa, England, Wales); Instruments A-I, undated.
Box 9
Facilities (Bodenseewerk, Costa Mesa, England, Wales); Instruments A-I, undated.
Box 10
Instruments J-Z, undated.
Box 11
Optics A-P, undated.
Box 12
Optics Q-Z & Misc, undated.
Box 13
Employees; Facilities; Instruments, undated.
Volume 1

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