The Chemistry of Industrial Hygiene Instrumentation

Hilton Portland Galleria North
The question came to me from longtime colleague Geoff Hewitt of IonScience, is 2011 the 40th anniversary of  the commercialization of the photoionization detector by Jack Driscoll? My answer was no it's not; it is the 38th anniversary but it is the International Year of Chemistry. What better time to celebrate the life's work of a chemist and his contributions to the field of industrial hygiene? I contacted my local section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) and applied for a mini-grant to sponsor this event and applied to have it listed as an official International Year of Chemistry (IYC) event
Dr. Patrick Gordon, Chair of NESACS contacted me to discuss presenting a plaque to Jack at this event that they had agreed to sponsor and would act as an official IYC event. When asked AIHA offered me a no-charge function room at the Hilton Portland for this special evening.

Dr. Gordon asked me to solicit someone in the industrial hygiene industry to write the verbiage for the plaque; I chose Dr. Phil Smith of US Department of Labor/Occupational Health and Safety Association because he and Jack both currently serve on the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Real-Time Detection Systems Committee. This is what Dr. Smith submitted to me:
"In recognition of your visionary efforts to improve the practice of industrial hygiene through development of highly portable detection instruments, including development of the first handheld photoionization detector, the HNU PI101, and numerous other handheld and transportable detection systems.  Your work has had a large and lasting impact on the practice of industrial hygiene, and in other fields where the need exists to measure airborne chemicals in real-time or near real-time".
I thought Phil would make an excellent speaker for the event so I asked him if he would say a few words about Jack and the impact his instrumentation has had on the industrial hygiene industry. I also asked Geoff Hewitt to speak about the founding of HNU Systems since he was employed there shortly after it's incorporation. Geoff met with us to discuss his speech and detail the marketing for this event. I contacted members of the Pacific Northwest local American Chemical Society sections to engage their participation in this event that was taking place within/driving distance of their section. I received an overwhelming response from the Portland Local Section who won a ChemLuminary Award in 2010 for the best new public relations campaign. 
Hewitt, Brabham-Chair Portland LS, Maclachlan, Driscoll, Terrell-Chair-Elect Portland LS

This event was well received by the industry media and many thanks to the following media individuals who ran my press releases: Occupational Health & Safety,  Physics News Facility Safety Management Rand D

The reception began at 6pm and ended at 8:30pm on Sunday May 15, 2011 at the Hilton Portland in Galleria North on the Ballroom level. Complimentary beer (Portland micro-brews!) , wine and soft drinks were served along with prociutto-wrapped asparagus, coconut shrimp, crackers with brie & apricot, spinach & artichoke dip and a roast beef carving station to the fifty attendees. Socializing occurred from 6pm-6:30pm, then I kicked off the program with an Introduction to the International Year of Chemistry and introduced my colleague and father: Dr. Jack Driscoll. Jack spoke for 30 minutes and had his audience entranced in his presentation: The History of HNU and the amusing anecdotes that accompanied each Powerpoint slide. 
 Geoff Hewitt spoke next opening with an apropos quote: “The secret to success is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” Benjamin Disraeli First Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-1881* Jack Driscoll is credited with commercializing the photoionization detector ie) engineering the first analyzer to employ photoionization as the detection principal.  "The history of PID, and the careers of Jack and Geoff intersect a number of times over the years, so bear with me as I tell a tale that is mostly based on fact!! And since the history of PID predates hnu, so does my narrative. I first met Jack Driscoll at the Pittsburgh Conference in Cleveland in 1975. How did that meeting come about? Well it’s a story of two people arriving at the same place from two totally different journeys, and of other characters that played a role along the way." Geoff went on to provide a time line 
of “The History of PID according to Geoff”  including "1961 James Lovelock publishes review of ionization detectors for gc including ECD FID and PID. Analytical Chemistry 33, #2 162-178. ECD allows detection of traces of pesticides and CFCs.1962 Rachel Carson publishes “Silent Spring” warning of the perils of indiscriminate pesticide use, and the environmental movement is founded. Lovelock’s ECD figures prominently in early environmental analysis" leading up to the next set of critical events: 1971 Driscoll builds 1st PID while at Walden Research (making it the 40th anniversary of the first photoionization detector prototype!) 1972 hnu formed to develop a Nitrogen Oxide monitor for the USA Environmental Protection Agency  Driscoll and Spaziani develop first commercial PID with separate lamp and ion chamber".  A really touching moment was when Geoff took the time to remember those individuals who were essential to the early success of HNU Systems: Fred Spaziani, Jim Becker and Al Wilshire.
Hewitt, Dahlstrom, Maclachlan, Smith, Driscoll

The room was full of Jack's colleagues including Dave Dahlstrom who shook Jack's hand and "thanked [him] for saving thousands of lives with [his] industrial hygiene instrumentation".


  1. The thing with industrial hygiene programs, it just makes life better, and that I can agree of.

  2. I am just happy that we have the standards that we have today when it comes to industrial hygiene. I think that it is important to keep a safe and clean work environment for your employees. It is really cool to see the difference that it makes in their productivity as well.


  3. And since the history of PID predates hnu, so does my narrative. I first met Jack Driscoll at the Pittsburgh Conference in Cleveland in 1975. How did that meeting come about? Well it’s a story of two people arriving at the same place from two totally different journeys, and of other characters that played a role along the way.Body Mint


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