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An Early History


In April 20, 1948, the Secretary of State of California affixed the Great Seal of the State to the Articles of Incorporation of Varian Associates. The articles were signed by nine persons who were named as directors of the new corporation; they were: Edward L. Ginzton, William W. Hansen, Richard M. Leonard, Leonard I. Schiff, H. Myrl Stearns, Dorothy Varian, Russell H. Varian, Sigurd F. Varian and Paul B. Hunter.

The articles of incorporation stated in part that the purposes of the new Company were to "conduct general research in the fields of physical science of every kind or nature, including...heat, sound, light, optics, x-rays, charged particles, ionizing radiations, electricity, magnetism, proper ties of solids, liquids and gases, vacuum technology and applications thereof, chemistry including physical chemistry, electro-chemistry and metallurgy, to engage in the evaporation of substances in an evacuated chamber, to accelerated charged particles to high kinetic energies, to measure the gyro-magnetic properties of atoms to measure magnetic fields or for other purposes..." - that is to say vacuum products, NMR, and EPR spectrometers, linear accelerators, optical spectrometers, and more.

In support of this ambitious undertaking were $22,000 of capital, and six full-time employees - the Varian brothers, Dorothy, Myrl Stearns, Fred Salisbury, and Don Snow. In addition, Edward Ginzton, Marvin Chodorow, William Hansen, and Leonard Schiff, all of whom were on the faculty at Stanford, supplied technical and business assistance. Dick Leonard, a San Francisco attorney, was legal counsel, while Paul Hunter, a patent attorney, was the protector of ideas.

The articles of incorporation, which ran to 15 pages, described seven lines of business including the development and manufacture of:"...evacuated or gas-filled envelopes for, or for use in the production, generation... of electricity... and of radiation..." -- in other words, electron tubes.

"...Circuits, and other means of assembling or using any of the foregoing elements and principles for radio, radar, television..." – a description of our involvement in three major markets.

The nine directors did not gather together to sign the articles. Dick Leonard's signature was notarized in San Francisco. Myrl Stearns, Sig Varian, and Paul Hunter were still in the East, and they signed in Nassau County, Long Island. They were joined by Ed Ginzton who was in the New York area on business.

Before Bernice Ewell, Notary Public for the County of Santa Clara, gathered Russ and Dorothy Varian, Leonard Schiff, and William Hansen. Assuming that Bernice Ewell had read the document, she must have thought them somewhat mad.

The first microwave radar system, with a klystron acting as the power source.

Nonetheless, today, Varian Associates can look back at its articles of incorporation and say, in effect, "Sure, that's what we said we were going to do, and that's about what we did." Lines of business described in 1948 are major technologies, benefiting not only Varian, but companies around the world, accounting for annual sales in the billions of dollars, and jobs counted in the tens of thousands.The first microwave radar system, with a klystron acting as the power source.

About 1949, the directors and a few other early employees posed before the "headquarters" in San Carlos. Some years later, a senior officer of Varian regarded that photo and asked: "If that group came to you and asked for financial backing, would you give them a nickel?"Founders and close associates in San Carlos, California, left to right: Russ Varian, Sig Varian, Marvin Chodorow, Dorothy Varian, Dick Leonard, Esther Salisbury, Ed Ginzton, Fred Salisbury, Don Snow, and Myrl Stearns.

Although it is clear from the articles of incorporation that the founders planned a diversified enterprise, it was several years before Varian was essentially anything but a microwave tube plant.

Founders and close associates in San Carlos, California, left to right: Russ Varian, Sig Varian, Marvin Chodorow, Dorothy Varian, Dick Leonard, Esther Salisbury, Ed Ginzton, Fred Salisbury, Don Snow, and Myrl Stearns.

However, the founders of Varian did not envision a one-product company, and they had intentionally settled near Stanford in order to enjoy the benefits of interchange with the various scientific programs in progress at the University. It happened that the early years of Varian coincided with an unusually rich period of invention of Stanford, and the young Company was to be a beneficiary of much of this productivity.

For example, Felix Bloch, William Hansen, and others had recently completed pioneering work in nuclear magnetic resonance. Varian obtained patent rights for NMR - the jumping-off point for Varian's present position as a leader in analytical instrumentation.

Also at Stanford, Hansen and Ginzton were building the first linear accelerators for high energy physics research. Today, Varian is the world leader in the production of linear accelerators.William Hansen at Stanford with the first linear accelerator.

William Hansen at Stanford with the first linear accelerator.

Gradually, facilities were moved from leased quarters in San Carlos to a quiet corner of Stanford land, thus creating what is today the Company's headquarters site, and incidentally bringing into being the Stanford Industrial Park - the most successful complex of its kind in the world.

Tubes, an expanding instruments line, an embryonic accelerator activity, and a venture into geophysical instruments marked Varian's activities as it neared the end of the first decade. In the mid 1950's, "a better mousetrap" was needed in the manufacture of tubes, and an all-electronic vacuum pump was invented. It was soon recognized that this device had applications far beyond tube processing, and another line of business was launched.

It was a San Francisco Peninsula company until the early 1950's. Then the Canadian government asked Varian to create a local source for microwave tube production, and Varian Associates of Canada Limited was established in Georgetown, Ontario.

In 1959, S-F-D Laboratories was launched in Union, New Jersey, to design and build new classes of magnetrons and others tubes. And also in 1959, the first acquisition was made. Varian purchased Bomac Laboratories, a Massachusetts-based maker of tubes and components. Both S-F-D and Bomac are now Crossed Field & Receiver Protector Products in Beverly, Massachusetts.

As the Company entered the 1960's, instruments and vacuum products were becoming major businesses, while a standard line of medical linear accelerators was developed and aggressively marketed. Research in solid state devices, new forms of printing, and devices for commercial communications also accelerated.

Acquisitions played an equally major role in broadening Varian's product line. The largest of these was the merger of Eitel-McCulough, Inc., into Varian in 1965. With Eimac came a broad line of specialty electron tubes, sold primarily to various broadcast and industrial markets.

Four instrument companies joined Varian in the late 1960's - one in California, one in Australia, and one in Germany. These expanded our ability to serve the chemist and life scientist with the Aerograph® line of gas and liquid chromatographs, the Techtron line of atomic absorption instruments, Cary® spectrophotometers and MAT mass spectrometers - all famous names in laboratories and clinics about the world.

These are the high points, and it is not our intention to write a detailed early history. Instead, we would like to talk about a few significant lines of business which seem to characterize the kind of company Varian is, and the kinds of people who have made it that way.

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In 1949, Varian's "headquarters" building was a leased facility in San Carlos, California. By the early 1950's, the company had moved to the Stanford Industrial Park in Palo Alto, California.

Early History
Invention of the Klystron
The Founding of Varian Associates
NMR, the Physics Experiment that Revolutionized Chemistry
Vacuum Development

More About Varian, Inc.
2003 Annual Report
(.pdf, 1.56MB)
NMR Basics
About Vacuum Technologies
About Electronics Manufacturing