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Cytometry A. 2013 May;83(5):424-38. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22296. Epub 2013 Apr 17.

Wallace H. Coulter: decades of invention and discovery.

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Basic Medical Sciences & Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University Cytometry Laboratories, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.


Only a few inventors can be said to have made as great an impact on mankind as Wallace Coulter. His inquisitive mind and ability to see well beyond what existed served him well for 40 years of inventing. So many of the fundamental tools that exist today in the area of hematology were derived from or driven by Coulter's inventions that he could be called the most technological innovator in the field of modern hematology. In achieving these discoveries Wallace Coulter was clearly capable of visualizing future opportunities that few others recognized. His vision was combined with an uncanny ability to translate his ideas into products. He developed a large number of tools that shaped the fields of cytometry, image analysis, and industrial materials. His understanding of the future power of computation drove him to link these technologies in a unique way. In the end, Coulter shaped the technologies that ultimately drove hematology in a new direction, one that remains on a critical pathway linking technology innovation all the way to true translational impact. It was said of Henry Ford that "[h]e has no notion that wealth has made him great, and any one who is imprest merely by his wealth bores him. In his personal contacts he likes to dodge the subject. He would prefer to talk with a machinist about machinery, or with somebody who likes birds about birds. In these contacts, he asks no deference; and if he gets it, he suspects it is mere deference to wealth, and that ends his interest."(1) The same could be said of Wallace Coulter, who, like Ford, understood the concepts of mass production and customer service. Coulter had the ability to recognize the opportunity and fulfill the need for development of a blood-cell counter that could be placed in every pathology laboratory, and in so doing transformed a field from a qualitative to a quantitative environment. Every person who has ever entered a medical lab, hospital, or doctor's office has felt the impact of Coulter's discovery.

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