Joseph Priestley Society Symposium

October 12, 2017
11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Science doesn’t happen just anywhere.

Step back in time to 20th-century California, a place where science not only thrived but remade the state in its image. We’ll walk through a series of intersecting case studies that investigate what makes a state, region, or city a “good” site for doing science and how the resulting scientific institutions have broader ramifications for those sites.

Jody A. Roberts, director of CHF’s Institute for Research and managing director of CHF West, will explore this topic with a panel of researchers at the Joseph Priestley Society symposium “California Dreaming: Technologies, Imagination, and Place in the Making of Scientific California.” 

Event Schedule

Cost of admission includes networking reception, catered luncheon, and symposium. Tickets for this event are $25 each.

  • 11:00 a.m.–11:45 a.m.
    Networking Reception
  • 11:45 p.m.–12:30 p.m.
  • 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.

How did scientist-entrepreneur Arnold O. Beckman, and his namesake research institutes, turn Southern California into an incubator of technoscientific development and imagination? Speakers will describe interactions between Beckman and the many things that defined 20th-century California, including the state’s unique physical landscape, political milieu, strategic defense importance, capital resources, and professional networks. Work done in and around California’s Beckman research communities provides a powerful example of the many roles—and outsized influence—that scientists have had in the development of infrastructure, industry, health care, urban planning, and environmental regulation.

Presentations will be delivered by the team of The Institute researchers for the Arnold O. Beckman Legacy Project, an initiative made possible by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.


Roger Turner explores how Dr. Beckman shaped Southern California’s distinctive smog politics during the 1950s, working with industrial elites to propose technological fixes to undercut political mass organizing.

Joseph Klett discusses the 1982 establishment at the University of California, Irvine, of an interdisciplinary laser clinic and laboratory that was promptly tasked by an Orange County judge to remove tattoos from paroled gang members.

Deanna Day presents the City of Hope National Medical Center as both a regional and national network of environmental health seekers and innovative researchers that mobilizes “hope” as an organizing, fundraising, and patient-treatment principle.

Roger Eardley-Pryor explains how research in artificial photosynthesis at the Caltech Beckman Institute is linked historically to visions of environmental crises and their technological solution by Harrison Brown in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The Joseph Priestley Society (JPS) lecture series explores topics in science, technology, and industry through professional networking receptions and lectures by industry leaders.

    For more information about this event contact Sarah Reisert at 215.873.8263 or

    Image credit: Detail from “The Next Industrial Revolution,” a 1981 advertisement depicting Beckman Instruments as an active participant in building humanity’s future through high-tech scientific instruments. The Institute Collections.