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Fellows Profile
By Tom Godfrey, OSSC Historian

-Howard Cary-

(03 May 1908 - 19 Dec 1991)


OSSC President (1951-1952)


Howard Cary was the first President of the Optical Society of Southern California when it was formed in 1951.  He was co-founder and chairman of the board of Cary Instruments, originally Applied Physics Corporation in Monrovia, California, and a member of the Varian board of Directors.


The Optical Society of America awarded him the David Richardson Medal for outstanding achievements in applied optics.  Cary was honored for "his painstakingly careful and very valuable contributions to the design and production of highly precise instrumentation in areas which range from spectroscopy to chemical, medical and nuclear research."


A native of Los Angeles, Howard graduated from the California Institute of Technology and earned a BS in engineering in 1930.  OSSC's 1956-57 President and Fellow Roland C. Hawes was a classmate.  For a number of years Cary was with National Technical Laboratories in Pasadena -- later known as Beckman Instruments, Inc.  -- first as a development engineer, then as vice president in charge of development.  At Beckman he played a large part in the design of modern pH meters and of two types of manual spectrophotometers.


In 1946, Cary, George Downs and William C. Miller formed the Applied Physics Corporation (renamed Cary Instruments in 1966, after becoming a Varian subsidiary), which designed and developed the first commercial ultraviolet-visible, recording spectrophotometer (Cary Model 14).  Industrial and institutional research laboratories throughout the world now use this instrument, in many different models.  Roland Hawes was Vice-President of R&D from 1951 to 1972.  David Nelson was Manager of Applications and later President after Cary's retirement.


In 1958 Howard received the Beckman Award in Chemical Instrumentation from the American Chemical Society.  The honor is presented annually "to recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in development of new methods for chemical process measurement and control."


Howard Cary was a co-founder and first president of the Optical Society of Southern California, a "local section" of the Optical Society of America.  Cary was one of five people who served on the OSSC organizing committee, formed in June 1951, along with with Eugene Thornburn, Felix Bednarz, Armin J. Hill and Henry A. Knoll.   On November 7, 1951, Cary was elected among the temporary officers  serving as the first President of the OSSC in 1951-1952. In March 25, 1952, the OSSC articles of incorporation were approved by the California Secretary of State and on July 17 the OSSC was officially recognized as the eighth local section of the Optical Society of America.


He was President of the Instrumentation Society of America, a member of the Executive Committee of the Western Spectroscopy Association, a member of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the Institute of Radio Engineers, and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy.


Howard Cary died December 19, 1991 of pneumonia after a long illness, at the age of 83.  He left a wife of 56 years, Barbara and a sister, Mrs. James Reed.

Corporate Address:  14271 Jeffrey Road, Suite 136
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Updated: 20 October 2019
Added 13  November OSSC Meeting