Legacy of Innovation

By October 7, 2020


As our founder, Jim Waters, turns ninety-five this month, we are looking back on a legacy of unlocking the ​potential of science he began building in 1958. Waters has been at the forefront of scientific innovation since Jim Waters perfected the first infrared gas analyzer in 1958. What began in the basement offices of a police station in Framingham, MA – just 12 miles from the current Waters corporate headquarters – has evolved into a $2.3 billion global corporation that enhances human health and well-being.

Jim Waters at Harvard University in 1972 with Dr. Helmut Hamberger and Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert Woodward.

Jim founded what was then called Waters Associates with just five employees. During those formative years, Waters Associates was what we would now call a research boutique that companies contacted to build one-of-a-kind instruments for various purposes. Early products included a boiler feedwater flame photometer, a balloon hydrometer, a nerve gas detector and process control refractometers.

In 1965, the technique of liquid chromatography was a mere curiosity. Most chemists who were proficient in LC worked in university and industrial research labs. That year, Waters Associates embarked on its first LC system project. In an internal document, Jim wrote at the time, “We believe LC can become a mass market, which will expand far beyond the research laboratory into production quality control, and clinical testing.”

It took a little longer for Jim’s bet on LC to pay off, but in 1972 Dr. Helmut Hamberger, chief post-doc for Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert Woodward of Harvard University, sought Jim’s help. The pair developed a separation in two days to synthesize the B12 protein.

That was just the beginning of innovation to enhance human health and well-being. As Waters grew, innovations like ultra-performance liquid chromatography, known as UPLC®, which Waters brought to market in 2004, not only enable more advanced separation of samples, but use 35% less energy and up to 80% less solvent, making them extremely environmentally friendly. The first ACQUITY UPLC System opened the door to a flood of innovation that continues to shape separations science today. What began as a single UPLC system in 2004 has expanded into a family of fit-for-purpose products.

Today, breakthrough Waters products, like our best-in-class BioAccord System for biopharmaceutical analysis, are aiding the effort to develop life-saving vaccines. The spirit of innovation that Jim instilled in Waters from the beginning is even at the core of Immerse, a Waters Innovation and Research Laboratory in the heart of Cambridge, MA that opened its doors in September. Immerse is a collaborative lab built to accelerate the next generation of scientific advancements.

For more than six decades, Waters has been unlocking the ​potential of science ​by delivering benefit to customers, employees, shareholders, and society through​ analytical measurement technology, deep scientific expertise and reliable insights to enhance human health and well-being. Our scientists and experts around the world are advancing innovation every day to meet the challenges of tomorrow.


Categories: Leadership