History and Philosophy
On my own behalf: A short review on my professional activities and private thoughts.
Initially, my profession is in
electronics. Early in the 1970īs, I started in optical spectroscopy, by working
in customer service at Perkin-Elmer and Varian, where I switched to sales and
application. I got extensive training on scanning spectroscopy
systems, mainly in the range of UV-Vis, like:
Absorption and Reflection spectroscopy, Fluorescence, Atomic Absorption, Raman,
Circular Dichroism (CD), and others.
Mid of the 1970īs, I became employee at (at the time:) Princeton Applied Research, which was purchased by EG&G, and named EG&G-PAR in 1978. Working there for many years, I had the chance to extend my know-how with all relevant techniques of signal recovery. Like: Lock-In, Boxcar, Fourier-Transformation, Signal-Averagers, Photon Counters. A full spectrum of electro-chemical instrumentation and magnetometric sample analyzers completed the PAR portfolio. The company played technically in the same league as Hewlett-Packard or Keithley. At the time of my start, all methods worked purely analogue at the front end. But within the next ten years, all of them became digitized and computerized. Good to know both worlds, and the strong and weak parameters of both technologies. In 1974, PAR had introduced two inventions: The first microprocessor based analytical instrument, an automatic polarograph. The other was the Optical Multi Channel detector (OMA), the primary source of Array and CCD technology. EG&G-PAR was very busy in marketing and application, to install the new technology in the scientific market. It was very nice and challenging to participate that, and I could combine spectroscopy and signal recovery. In 1981, I had the honour, to install the first commercial Raman spectrometer with parallel detection, at least in Germany. In the following years, I was able to supply many customers with customer-taylored systems in several fields of the UV-Vis. Displeasing throughout, is the increased purchasing, dividing, squeezing-out of small, but potential High-Tech companies. Today, that is called "investing" or "merging". In most of the cases, it leads to loss of leadership, and downsloping performance of the companies purchased.
By the end of the 1980īs, I had to realize, that the innovative and god times at EG&G-PAR would find the end, I needed a change. 1991, I founded and until 1998 managed, SOPRA GmbH, mainly owned by the french mother Sopra SA. The original products of Sopra SA, at that time, have been ultra-high resolution spectrometers, in single and double stage, plus single and double pass configuration, up to 2 m focal length per stage, providing far outstanding performance. Beside of that. Sopra also was technology leader in spectroscopic ellipsometry, and produced Excimer lasers for surface treatment. To complete the product range sold by GmbH, we added spectrometers of shorter focal length and easier use, by the adding the representation of Acton Research (ARC), USA. ARC spectrometers are very friendly integrated into laboratory setups and became well selling products quickly. Two more legs, to stand on at Sopra GmbH, where SLM-Aminco, USA, pioneer for stationary and time resolved fluorescence systems, and dual wavelength spectroscopy, the major method in the 1980īs and 1990īs for dynamic absorption experiments like Stopped Flow. AVIV, one more US company, is "recycling" the world-famours Cary spectrometers for ratio-recording UV-Vis-NIR absorption spectroscopy and CD. Aviv uses the superb Cary optics and applies modern electronics, and was distributed by us in centre Europe. Some small providers of specialized spectroscopy accessories completed the portfolio of Sopra GmbH. Business went well, until Sopra SA in 1996 decided to change itīs strategic goals towards applications in semi conductor industry, sacrificing spectroscopy and laboratory ellipsometry. The target market segment for the new LCD technology measurement systems did not and does not support the sales and service company in Germany, I was running at that time. Consequently, the office was closed in 98. With the representations of ARC and SLM in the pocket, I changed to Polytec GmbH, to distribute the products further, and in parallel start a new spectroscopy division with Polytec-own products.
Unfortunatly, I suffered from "investments and mergers" again. Acquisitions hit my both US companies in the way it happens in most cases: to the disadvantage of customers, employees, and in reality the new owners either. Indeed, they do not want to know and exchange managers like coins. That the new personell often is incompetent, ignorant, and egomanic, may be to the plan of the holding company in short term, and often, the heads there donīt know better. All learned the same theories, and often think very short termed. Sometimes they truely believe to know the right way. If the new hired managers happen to combine the above "features" with incompence on the technical, marketing and social side, they will easily make the "ideas" of the holding real. That is the time, the really good, enganged, and competent employees leave, and the screw starts to turn downward. SLM was sold several times in the 1990īs. With every change in ownership, the instruments program was "streamlined" further, and in 2000 only one product, a stationary fluorimeter, was left, which was killed too, meanwhile. Sidenote: An obviously revealing phrase is the expression "Iīve got x people working for me". I know nobody, working for his boss. I at least, was working for my family, our customers, the collegues, co-workers and employees (for whom I was responsable for sevaral years), and of course for myself. In my view, a boss has to work for his people and the customers, and not vice versa. If he works well, the company has a good chance for long term success, and the often mentioned "shareholders" will get their part either. This point of view is very common in privatly owned and run companies, but seems to be totally unknown in anonymous holdings. As the chiefs (or does a titel like General or Major fit better to those "officers"?) believe, that people (and probably customers too) are there for them, the whole system does not work long termed.
Back to history. ARC, in the late 1990īs went from private ownership to the Roper Industries group. Roper had purchased several companies in the field of CCD technology and spectroscopy, and combined them in Roper Scientific. A good step, because a common distrubion line was also formed, with the German branch RS GmbH. ARC became member of the group. Meanwhile it also had become the main product line of my business. When the ARC distribution in Germany was transferred from Polytec to RS GmbH, I accepted the offer to switch with the products. Now, I had highly flexible, high quality spectrometers, and the CCD cameras of RS-Princeton Instruments, which originally was a spring-off of EG&G-PAR. Combining both, spectrometers and CCD, and adding commercial single point detectors, light sources, and other accessories, I kept the ability, to fulfill most customer requirements for systems, not available from the shelf. It was fun to define, develop, setup and apply specialized systems together with happy customers. In 2019, by the way, the whole group of Roper Sceintific cameras and spectroscopy equipment was sold to Teledyne Technologies. At least, the group was kept together.
Frequently during those activities, which in total spread over 20 years, the discussion came to useful literature on optical spectroscopy. Available have been very deep digging books and papers on theory, providing not much help in practical view. And on the other hand, "cook books" existed, describing defined applications, but not much background information and theory. The missing link was not found, not by my customers, nor by myself. Some of the customers asked me, to write the missing link. After I had retired from day-to-day activities in 2008, I started writing the "Book on practical Optical Spectroscopy by modular Instruments". At the beginning, it was available as a free accessable part of this homepage. Today, all issues, dealing with the spectrometers, systems, and appliations, are finished. Four books, two in English, two in German, are available as mentioned at the start page.
Optical Spectroscopy has made my professional and business life and it has given me a lot. I frankly hope, that I will be able to pay back some knowlegde to the community of spectroscopists with this homepage and the books.
Faithfully, Wilfried Neumann
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Wilfried Neumann, D-88171 Weiler-Simmerberg