Forewords – The Early Days of Varian Associates


All what follows is NOT intended to be a historical work, but rather a technical review of the various models of NMR instrumentation designed and produced by Varian, along its way from 1960s, thru the acquisition of NMR business by Agilent Technologies in 2010, down to the shutdown of every activity on October 14th, 2014.

Almost everything comes from my own documentation, manuals, handbooks and memory; most of the photographs come from several sources and are quoted accordingly.

The beginning: why in Palo Alto?

After the end of World War 2 an exceptional combination of positive factors occurred all over USA, but especially in California, and even more in an area around the bay of San Francisco, that years later became universally famous as the Silicon Valley.

These factors where:

– an extremely active technological and industrial economy, which grow up to immense power during the war, and had now to be converted to civilian activities;

– a great number of young men, very well-trained to technical skills at care and expenses of armed forces, and now looking for good jobs;

– a great deal of scientific research carried over to improve theoretical backgrounds and practical applications of physical laws; for what NMR is concerned, the most important field was the studies performed in the Radiation Lab of MIT on the Radio Frequencies (RF) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum;

– a huge amount of top quality RF equipments developed and built for RADAR and radio communications for military uses, available at very low-cost or at no cost at all, and ready, or easily adaptable, for scientific use

– in the Palo Alto area, a further benefit came from Stanford University, a top-level academic institution since his foundation in 1891.

Counting on all those factors, and some others I forgot to mention, the birth of a strong electronic and innovative  industry in the Bay Area was almost unavoidable.

There are several writings and memories about the birth and early years of Varian in Palo Alto, the most recent one being the article from Prof. Ray Freeman and Gareth A. Morris on JMR

In the History section of Stan’s Sykora NMR Blog you will find many good references:

BTW, have a look at Stan’s website, it’s a mine of useful infos and links, and not only for NMR!