Monthly Archives: October 2012

A small town boy who found a book ~ Arnold Beckman


Arnold Beckman’s 7 Rules for Living

1)  Absolute integrity in everything

2)  There is no satisfactory subsitute for excellence

3)  Moderation in everything, including moderation

4)  Hire the best people, then get out of the their way

5)  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; if you’re not making mistakes you’re probably not doing very much

6)  Acquire new knowledge, and always ask ‘why’

7)  Don’t take yourself too seriously

Headstone Located In West Lawn Cemetery
Cullom, Illinois <click on image to enlarge>

The unassuming headstone for Arnold & Mable Beckman is located in West Lawn Cemetery in Cullom.  Arnold Orville Beckman was born in Cullom, IL in 1900, the son of the local blacksmith, George Beckman and his wife Elizabeth Jewkes.  In 1925 Arnold married Mabel Meinzer.

In 1909, Arnold  Beckman found an old dusty science book in the attic of his parent’s  home, Steel’s Fourteen Weeks in Chemistry He studied this book and his curiosity and passion for science began.  At the age of eleven, Arnold helped his father convert on old tool shed in back of the house for a place to work on his experiments, buying chemicals he needed from the local drugstore.  One of his first experiments was to measure the butterfat content of raw milk for a local dairy.  <Due to the close proximity, I wonder if it might have been for my Great-grandfather Hahn’s dairy>  His mother died when he was twelve and he and his father moved to Bloomington, IL where Arnold completed his education taking university level chemistry classes at University High School in Normal, IL.  He went on to study at the University of Illinois and Cal Tech.

In 1935 to help a friend from the California Fruit Growers Association, Beckman developed what he called an ‘acidimeter’, to test the pH factor of lemons.  When other fruit growers requested the same piece of equipment, Beckman saw the potential and started the National Technical Laboratories to manufacture the devices.

Arnold Beckman is shown with an “acidimeter the first pH meter”

Today, his invention is known as the ‘pH meter’.   It quickly became an indispensable tool in analytical chemistry and earned Mr. Beckman in 1987 a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  In 1988 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology for outstanding technological contributions to the United States.  

Mable, President Reagan, & Dr. Beckman

He was also nationally recognized under the Reagan administration with the 1989 Presidential Citizens Medal for his exemplary deeds of service.  In 1991 he was awarded ‘The Order of Lincoln’ from the State of Illinois.  These are just a few of the honors Beckman received in his lifetime, not bad for a boy from a small town with humble beginnings.

Dr. Beckman with his Son and President George H.W. Bush

In 1942 The U.S. Government hires Beckman to produce Infrared Spectrophotometers for the war effort.  He also develops Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer which was later used in molecular biology, to probe the nature of DNA.

By 1950 he changed his company’s name to Beckman Instruments.  The product line for his company included electrical resistors, radar equipment, micro circuitry, heart monitors, and liquid crystal digital displays.  One invention which became an industry standard were Beckman’s oxygen meters used in incubators for premature babies, helping to prevent retina damage and blindness in newborns.

Always on the cutting edge of innovation and science, in 1955 Beckman provided seed money to William Shockley the founder of Shockley Semiconductor in Palo Alto, CA.   An entire microchip industry grew, establishing Silicon Valley as one of the world’s top centers of innovation. This company was one of the first Silicon Valley businesses, and later was absorbed into Beckman Industries. 

Arnold & Mable Beckman

1977 saw the establishment of the Arnold and Mable Beckman Foundation.  The Foundation has donated over $400 million to advance science, medicine, engineering, and education.

“The past years have been rewarding for me in many ways,” said Dr. Beckman, during the Golden Anniversary celebration for Beckman Instruments, Inc. “Perhaps the greatest reward is the knowledge that Beckman products have contributed and are contributing to the benefit of mankind.”

All this from a boy in a small town who found a book…

Later… Barbara

California Institute of Technology
Beckman Institute for the Chemical & Biological Science

University of Illinois at Urbana
Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology

Beckman Center for Molecular & Genetic Medicine

City of Hope
Beckman Research Institute

Beckman Laser Institute
for Advanced Science & Technology

Beckman Memorial Library
Main Street Cullom, IL


Cullom, Illinois ~ Agriculture, Celebrations & Balloons


Before the arrival of the settlers in the early 1800’s this area was covered in prairie grasses as tall as a man, with an abundance of deer, wolves and rattlesnakes.  As kids we would search for arrow heads in the freshly plowed fields of dirt the color of coal.  I imagined we were in old Indian hunting grounds, since Indian villages were said to be located in surrounding areas.

In 1878 a railroad was built which went through present day Cullom and a post office was established the same year.  The name came from Illinois Governor, Shelby Cullom.  <To my knowledge, a governor in Illinois who didn’t serve time in prison!> Technically, Cullom is a village not a town and was incorporated in 1882.

I thought I would take some time over the next few weeks and introduce you to my small town.  Located in Central Illinois, smack dab in the middle of some of the most flat, fertile, farm land in the mid-west.  Agriculture plays a vital role in our economy.  Surrounded by soybean and corn fields, don’t blink as you drive through, you might miss us.

Grain Storage Bin

Our main business district is one block long, no stoplights needed.  The grain storage bins loom over the town like skyscrapers.  The only traffic jams will be the line of tractors with wagons and semi-trucks hauling grain to town and then shipped out by rail.  On crisp fall days, the background music is the hum coming from the grain dryers signaling another successful harvest.

The closest fast food restaurant, movie theater, and big box store is twenty miles away, and within a couple hours you can be in downtown Chicago.  


It is not exactly known when Cullom had it’s first balloon ascension, but it was reported one went up in 1898.  Every August Cullom has a Homecoming Celebration.  It grew out of a celebration started by the St. John’s Catholic Church in 1889.  It eventually turned into a community affair, people from surrounding towns would return to town to visit with family and friends.  The balloon ascension became a part of this tradition.  It is said the only times the balloon didn’t go up in August was during World War II or if bad weather would prevent it.  Some even say Cullom holds the distinction of having the longest continuous annual balloon ascension in the United States.

Balloon Ascension Every August
During Cullom Homecoming Celebration

The early days had smoke filled balloons, it would be an afternoon affair watching the balloon being filled with the black smoke. The balloonist would take the balloon up and parachute from a rig hanging below the balloon.  Most years, the second Thursday in August is when the Celebration with a balloon ascension begins.  It has turned into a three day and night party, with a livestock and domestic arts fair, and flower show.  The addition of a fireworks display on Saturday night caps off the festivities.  Today, people visit with friends and neighbors as the modern balloons are filled in a matter of minutes.  The official start of the Homecoming Celebration wouldn’t be complete without the Cullom Balloon Ascension!

I’ve got some more old photographs and stories, stay tuned…

Later… Barbara

Starting in the afternoon people would gather to watch as the fire was built and the black balloon would be filled with smoke.

A photograph of one of the old smoke balloons

Cullom Homecoming Celebration 1909                       ~ everyone dressed up for the occasion!

An early photograph of Cullom’s Rail Station              ~ the trees in the background are where the    Village Park is today

Cullom Post Office in 1900 located on what is now Maple Street ~ notice the mud street

I Believe in Magic


Years ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with a group of computer gurus at a convention in Las Vegas.        <Talk about being intimidated> anyway there I was, able to listen in on conversations about the future of technology.  Obviously, I had nothing to contribute; I had only recently learned how to run a Macintosh Computer. Although fascinating,  most of what I was hearing was beyond my comprehension.

However, there was one conversation I have never forgotten.  I heard a statement, I’ll paraphrase…                              ‘if we compare where we are today with computers to the motion picture industry; we are now at the stage of silent films’ ~ Sherwin Gooch This was in 1991.  What a remarkable prediction!

I think about the changes I have witnessed these past twenty-one years!  Star Trek and the Jetsons are no longer only science fiction.  In my mind I can compare it to how my Grandparents must have felt seeing the change from horses, to automobiles, to flying machines, to sitting in their living rooms watching men walk on the moon.  It excites me to imagine how my grandchildren will be living in the future.

I ask you to look around your own life.  How many toys, gadgets, appliances, phones, music, automobiles… <the list goes on and on>…  involve some sort of computing technology?  Most were not available twenty years ago, some not even ten.  Computers are shrinking a big universe we happen to occupy.

Let me give you a few examples of what is happening now which only makes me believe good things will continue to happen in the future…                

My cousin Michael Johnson <MRJ STUDIOS> is in ‘Time Shifting Echoes’  15 musicians, 28 instruments, 14 different languages come together to create this amazing video.  Every contributor used their own home equipment to film and record.  Take the time to watch and listen to the entire video…  I get goosebumps every time I see it.  You will see and hear the future of music.

The blog you are reading now has had visitors besides the U.S. also from Canada, France, Japan, Norway, and Republic of Korea <I find this incredible> I’m sitting at my kitchen table in Cullom, Illinois.

How many people do you know have a Star Trek communicator?  <Oops, I mean smart phone>

Children don’t use black boards in school, they have ‘Smart Boards’.

An Uncle has an implanted defibrillator that sends reports to his doctor, it saved his life.  The advancements in medical technologies boggles my mind.

A Global Positioning System can direct me from Point A to Point B, and tell me how long it will take to get there.

Video games so realistic, I can be fooled into thinking I’m seeing something live, not a game.

Athletic shoes with a component able to download and analyze your running and jumping skills.

Humans have the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere.  As I write this someone is communicating with a robot on Mars.

To me, it all sounds like magic!

An example using a 3D Scanner and Printer.   The model on the left, reproduction on the right.

I just became aware of three-dimensional scanning and printing.  It is predicted it will have just as significant impact on the future as the printing press did in the 1450’s or the steam engine in 1750.  I don’t fully understand it… however, I like to think what my future grandchildren will be doing with such technology.

I find it fun to believe in and imagine the future.  I guess in the same way I believe in magic.  I don’t have to fully understand something to know somehow it is possible.

I also believe we are beyond the silent movie analogy, and have moved to talking pictures although, still in black and white.  One only has to wonder what it will be like when we reach the full technicolor stage.  It’s going to be magical.

This is fantastic… I just got notified, I can send a message to the future… I think I might have to try it out. <JFGI> It’s true!

<I will always believe and so should you>

Later… Barbara

Looking Back… SCUBA Diving in Jamaica


“Hello young lady, I thought you were going to call me?” Ian asked in his proper Jamaican accent. “ I’ve been trying to reach you. I’m on my way. Get your suit, I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” he hung up the phone before I could say a word.

Being Jamaican, he arrived forty-five minutes later.

Ian was a friend I met when I first moved to Jamaica.  A typical island driver, he drove fast which means he stopped fast.  I never got use to Jamaican drivers, or driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, why I never drove myself.  Most rides were spent pressing the invisible brakes on my side of the car.  Today was no exception.  He asked all the right questions about my day however, he was mysteriously preoccupied; he seemed too focused on the traffic.  When I questioned why he wanted to take me diving, his only answer was “You’ll see.”

Within an hour, I could taste the salt on my lips; the water splashed my face as the waves bucked the boat.  We were going north, out into the vast blueness of the Caribbean.  I grabbed the railing to keep my balance with the rhythm of the boat as it pitched forward in the water.  I remember taking a long deep breath of sea air and exhaling slowly.  Letting some of the crap inside my head escape felt tremendous, it felt good… life was good!

We were on the boat ‘Katherine’, named for Ian’s wife; Charlie was the Captain.  Ian and I prepared the vests, tanks, and weights.  We were headed towards Devil’s Reef one of the most popular diving spots on the North Coast.  The wall at the reef was a three hundred foot drop.  It was dangerous; many experienced divers died when they gambled and thought they could outsmart the devil.  Although, we were not planning a wall dive, Ian told me what he wanted to show me was at the top of the wall along the reef.

Over the sound of the engine noise, he shouted, “When was the last time you were diving?”

“It’s been awhile.  Why, don’t you think I’ll remember everything I’ve been taught?”

He yelled back and for the first time grinned, “I hope so!”  Then more seriously, “I also want you to remember the first time you ever saw a coral reef.”

fish would surround me, follow me, dart in and around my waving long hair, they made me feel like a mermaid

I thought back about the first time I was at a reef years ago on my first trip to Jamaica.  The first memory that came to me was the fish.  I always repeated the story how fish would surround me; follow me, dart in and around my waving long hair. They made me feel like a mermaid, at one with the sea.  The shore side of the reef was one of the most diverse in the area.  Every place I explored there was an abundance of life.  The variety of fish, coral and sponge were beyond measure; I recalled the colors and textures as being some of God’s greatest handiwork only a few were fortunate enough to observe.

The wall at Devil’s Reef frightened me; I had known one of the guys who died while diving it.  He was much more experienced than I was, and I knew I had no business trying it.  Although, I had heard stories about it being more spectacular than the reef itself.

Charlie hoisted the red and white dive flag to indicate there were divers in the area.  All suited, the weight of the tank and fins made it almost impossible for me to move to the side of the boat.  Sitting next to Ian, we leaned back together and rolled into the water.  Adjusting our masks, checking tanks, he signaled to begin, I gave the okay sign, and we slowly began the descent.  We would need to go down forty feet to be able to get a panoramic view of the reef.  The warm water felt comforting, the sensation of weightlessness felt like freedom.

Immediately, I became aware of the murky water.  The sea was calm and the sun was bright.  It should have been clear enough to see an outline of the reef.  We continued, gently dropping further down, slowly the reef came in view.

I was horrified.  I was looking at a graveyard.  I saw dead lifeless sponges, broken pieces of Staghorn coral littered haphazardly, brain coral covered with anchor gouges and eerie white patches that covered the rest of the coral I knew were not normal.  There were few fish; I could count them on one hand.  I made my way closer to Ian.  He saw the shocked look on my face through my mask.  He just nodded his head and signaled for me to follow.

We glided closer to the reef, I was confused, I could not understand what I was seeing.  Ian pointed and motioned for me to follow; he headed towards the wall side of the reef.  He sensed my hesitation, gave me the okay sign, and again motioned for me to follow him.  We slowly drifted out not down.  He had me turn and look back at the wall.  As far down the wall I could see, it was the same devastation.  After a few minutes, he guided me back to the reef and toward the area where we had descended.  He pointed at his watch and indicated it was time to head to the surface.  Gradually, we made our ascent.  I looked up and could see the blurry outline of the bottom of the ‘Katherine’ above come into view.

We popped to the surface; I spit out the regulator, pushed up my mask, and yelled, “What the hell is going on?”

“Get in, we’ll talk.”  He grabbed my vest and pushed me over to the steps where Charlie was waiting to help.  As gravity resumed its hold, Charlie grabbed my vest as Ian shoved my bottom and ungracefully I was back on board.

I had a towel and was drying off, still trying to process the devastation I just witnessed.  Ian sat down next to me as Charlie turned the boat and headed towards shore.  We sat in silence neither of us spoke.  Finally, he asked, “What are you thinking?”

“What is going on? The reef is dying, it’s almost dead!  When did this happen… how did it happen?”  I started firing questions at him.

“That’s what I needed to show you,” Ian began to explain why he wanted to see me.  “We’re killing the reefs all along the coast.  I wanted to bring you here because this is what we advertise as one of the premier diving spots for tourist, and this is what we bring them to, we are killing our golden goose.  You know it wasn’t that many years ago this area was pristine, some of the best diving in the Caribbean, but not anymore.”

“What do tourists say?” I asked.

“Most of them don’t know the difference, they’re amateurs, they’ve never been diving before and they’re just here for a good time, rum punch and ganja. They could care less.  Any serious diver goes on one dive, and doesn’t waste his time to go for a second, and will never come back to Jamaica.”

I was still bewildered from what I had just seen; again I questioned, “How did it happen?”

“It’s not just one problem, it’s everything that’s been going on for years, and it’s reached the critical breaking point.  The sea can no longer cover the mistakes we’re making on land”, he said, “we’re killing the reefs”.

“Where are the fish?”

“They’re gone, over-fished, the estuaries are being destroyed, runoff from the hills, improper garbage and sewage disposal, overbuilding, squatting, it’s a multitude of reasons,” he answered.  “People don’t want to understand what they’re doing is destroying something which took hundreds if not thousands of years to grow”.

We were pulling up to the dock, he got up to help Charlie tie the boat.

“So why doesn’t somebody do something?” I said while collecting my bag preparing to disembark.

He took my hand and helped me step up on the dock.  “That’s why I wanted to talk to you.”

“Me, what are you talking about?  What can I do?”

We headed back to the car.  “Listen Barbara, there is a group of us getting together tomorrow night.  I want you to come and meet some people.”

“Getting together for what?”

“To do something” there was a seriousness in his voice I had never heard before.  “Just come and listen, tell us what you think, you might have some ideas of what we can do, I want you to help us.”

I didn’t know what to say, but I did agree I would go and listen.           

taken from “Looking Back”

So, this girl from the corn fields of Illinois went and listened.  I got involved in trying to ‘do something’. I eventually became the executive director of the group FRIENDS OF THE SEA.   Someday I will share more stories… there were many adventures!

This is a favorite quote of mine from Anais Nin:       

Later… Barbara