Home Seminal Contributions to Cytometry Wallace Coulter

Wallace Coulter’s One Technical Paper

by Marshall Don. Graham

As work toward the first commercial Coulter Counter© neared completion, Wallace Coulter drafted a manuscript for the 1956 National Electronics Conference in Chicago, where he presented his paper on October 3. In due course the Proceedings of the Conference appeared, but a few typos had crept into the published paper [High speed blood cell counter and cell size analyzer, Proceedings of the National Electronics Conference, Vol. 12. Chicago: National Electronics Conference, Inc.; 1957, pp 1034-1042 - WITH TYPOSPDF File ]. Wallace worried that these might create a bad impression if copies were given to prospective customers, so he carefully proofed his preliminary draft for independent printing.

Meanwhile, the American Journal of Clinical Pathology had accepted Wallace’s first advertisement for the Coulter Counter©. Both the ad and the first NIH evaluation of a commercial prototype appeared in the journal’s December 1956 issue. The ad included a concise summary of his counter’s advantages, and Wallace appended a copy to the draft in the latter’s first printing [First independent printing - TYPOS CORRECTEDPDF File ]. After Coulter Electronics relocated in 1961 from Chicago to Hialeah, the address was updated, first on the title page and later in the ad as well. In further printings, the ad for the first Coulter Counter©, now known as the Model A, was replaced by images of its descendents and accessories. Useful as sales aids, the several printings were widely distributed.

Wallace later gave me his last copy of the first printing, commenting that he didn’t want to write on it. He then inscribed one from a later printing, “Don maybe we will be able get this thing [sic, working] properly – eventually. Wallace H. Coulter, Oct 23 ‘85”. When I remarked the absence of “working”, Wallace told the story behind his printed drafts. Subsequently he would ask me, “How many papers have you published?” Regardless of the answer, he would comment, “I only published one …” So it was that he showed his pride in “this thing” and his one technical paper describing its operating principle. These were to become the cornerstone of today’s automated cytology industry, an impact summarized in my paper The Coulter Principle: Foundation of an Industry, JALA 8(6):72-81, 2003PDF File . Although Wallace’s paper has been widely cited, copies of both his printed drafts and the NEC Proceedings are increasingly difficult to locate.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Wallace’s introducing the Model A Coulter Counter©, scans of both the first printing of his preliminary draft and his paper as published in the NEC Proceedings appear here with permission from the International Engineering Consortium. This presentation of Wallace’s seminal paper has been facilitated by Andre Sulluchoco, Senior Editor, IEC Publications, whose help is sincerely appreciated.