A Brief Look Back at Agilent’s Dako

Founded in 1966 by Danish medical doctor Niels Harboe, Dako products quickly earned a reputation for being innovative and of high quality.

Medical doctor Niels M.G.Harboe 1918 – 2006, founded Dako in 1966

Medical doctor Niels M.G.Harboe 1918 – 2006, founded Dako in 1966

Dako products have continuously raised the standards for cancer diagnostics introducing many firsts, including the first companion diagnostic test and the first automation in special stains, IHC and H&E.

Agilent manufactures Dako products in Glostrup, Denmark and Carpinteria, California, USA.


Recent Milestones

Launch of Dako Omnis

Dako Omnis is an advanced staining solution designed to meet the needs of the high volume pathology lab that runs both IHC and ISH slides.

Agilent Acquires Dako for $2.2 Billion (DKK 12.8 Billion)

For more information, read the press release.



Additional Dako Milestones

Obituary: Niels M.G. Harboe 1918-2006

Agilent celebrates 50 years in analytical

In the spring of 1965, the Hewlett-Packard Company announced its fifth acquisition, a company in Avondale, PA, called “F&M Scientific.” At the time, F&M Scientific was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of a new technology called “gas chromatography.”

One of the world's first gas chromatographs: the F&M 17A

One of the world’s first gas chromatographs: the F&M 17A

“Chromatography is a relatively new technique for materials analysis,” HP said in its employee newsletter at the time. “Its application has expanded rapidly, particularly in the field of analytical chemistry.”


The acquisition was finalized 50 years ago this month, on August 9, 1965. Gas chromatography enabled HP – and ultimately Agilent – to launch other analytical technology platforms, including liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and microarray. Leadership in chemical analysis enabled the company to invest in life sciences, genomics and diagnostic.


F&M Scientific began as a part-time basement operation run by an employee of U.S chemical giant DuPont. Frank Martinez, Jr. was a glassblower who worked on analytical and process instruments for in-house use. In 1956, he obtained permission to manufacture gas chromatographs in his spare time. The company took off after a successful advertisement in the magazine Analytic Chemistry, and Martinez resigned from DuPont in 1958 to run F&M (named after his initials) fulltime.

When two other former DuPont scientists – Aaron Martin and C. Eugene Bennett – offered to buy F&M, Martinez proposed a partnership instead. All three founders would later be inducted into the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s “Instrumentation Hall of Fame.”

From left: Aaron Martin, C. Eugene Bennett and Frank Martinez Jr.

From left: Aaron Martin, C. Eugene Bennett and Frank Martinez Jr.

F&M wanted to exhibit at the 1959 Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (also known as “Pittcon”), but were unable to secure a booth. Instead, they set up in a room on the second floor of the hotel. They displayed an innovative new instrument: the first programmable high-temperature chromatograph, which utilized a thermal-conductivity detector and could operate at temperatures up to 300°C. The instrument became the star of the show, attracting customers including Pfizer, Dow and Esso. For the first time, materials such as petroleum, polymers and drugs could be analyzed in a matter of minutes.

Within a year, F&M extended its temperature range to 500°C. The company grew from three employees to 25, hiring most of the graduating class of Wilmington’s Brown Votech School as manufacturing staff. Sales doubled from $250,000 to $500,000, and continued to double every year. Within three years, F&M Scientific had become the world’s largest producer of gas chromatographic equipment.

And in 1965, with 400 employees and $7 million in annual sales, the company was sold to Hewlett-Packard.

HP continued to operate F&M as a separate business, now called the F&M Scientific Division, and expanded into new markets including environmental, food and drug testing, and crime detection.

“F&M’s gas chromatographs, which can accurately identify and measure minutely small traces of material, are installed in numerous laboratories engaged in pollution control and research,” said a 1967 HP employee newsletter. Applications included analysis of automotive exhaust, air pollution, pesticides, water quality and pollution.

HP also signed a contract with the federal government to develop a specialized line of portable laboratories for testing food products, including grains, forage, dairy and fruits. “Agricultural inspectors will be able to walk right out into the middle of an alfalfa field, take a sample, run it through the portable, self-powered F&M gas chromatograph, and perform all other necessary tests on the spot,” the company proclaimed.

In 1967, German biochemist Manfred Donike demonstrated that an HP gas chromatograph could be used to detect anabolic steroids and other prohibited substances in athletes’ urine samples. As a result, full-scale testing of athletes was conducted for the first time at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, using eight HP gas chromatographs.

HP continued its growth in analytical instrumentation. In 1970 it created the Scientific Instruments Division to develop new technologies for mass spectrometry. In 1973 it entered another adjacent market, liquid chromatography, through the acquisition of Hupe & Busch. One of the company’s most innovative technology breakthroughs was the 1979 invention of fused silica capillary columns, which simplified chemical analysis and enabled more compounds to be analyzed. And the HP 5890, introduced in 1984, remains the best-selling gas chromatograph instrument of all time.

The rebirth of chemical analysis

The spin-off of Agilent in 1999 created the Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis Group. But while the Life Science Solutions Unit was seen as a growth engine and investment area for the company, the Chemical Analysis Solutions Unit was regarded as an older, slow-growth business whose best days were behind it.

Mike McMullen, who led chemical analysis at the time, realized that while the chemical market in the U.S. was slowing, China, other emerging economies and the global food market were getting ready to explode. In fact, emerging economies throughout the world needed to improve the quality of their food, air water an environments. The business shifted the bulk of its investment dollars from the U.S. and Europe into China, India and other emerging economies.

Over the next several years, chemical analysis became one of Agilent’s highest-growth and highest-profit businesses. McMullen’s success in leading the Chemical Analysis helped him to be named as Agilent’s third president and CEO.

A brief history of HP/Agilent's revenue growth and technology milestones in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets

A brief history of HP/Agilent’s revenue growth and technology milestones in life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets

Fifty years after the acquisition of F&M Scientific, Agilent’s future looks bright. Leadership in chemical analysis has enabled the company to invest in life sciences, genomics and diagnostics. Last year, Agilent reintroduced itself as a $4 billion company completely focused on those industries.

“We are building a company that will bridge our expertise in analytics to new worlds in the growing life sciences and diagnostics fields,” Mike told employees at a recent anniversary celebration. “We are creating a better world. We are changing individual people’s lives. What could be better than coming to work every day to make that kind of change in the world?

7600A Gas Chromatograph Winning at Olympic Games

Trailer-borne laboratory supervised by Dr. Manfred Donike screened athletes for drug usage during the XXth Olympic games in Munich using eight 7600A Gas Chromatographs.

Trailer-borne laboratory supervised by Dr. Manfred Donike screened athletes for drug usage during the XXth Olympic games in Munich using eight 7600A Gas Chromatographs.

Performance enhancement has been on the minds of athletes for over 2,000 years. Its origins can be traced back to the ancient Olympics, where athletes would eat specially prepared lizard meat, hoping it would give them the winning edge.

By the 20th century, Olympic athletes were using testosterone, and the term “doping” had come into use. As methods to increase performance became more extreme and winning more political, it became evident that the use of performance-enhancing drugs was a threat to the integrity of sport and could have potentially fatal side effects if not stopped.

At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen fell from his bicycle and later died. A coroner’s inquiry found he was under the influence of amphetamine, which caused him to lose consciousness during the race. This has been the only Olympic death linked to doping.

By 1972, the Olympics in Munich began drug testing on a broader scale. At the heart of the scrutinizing process were eight HP 7600A Gas Chromatographs, used to screen urine samples taken from randomly selected athletes after each event.

Dr. Manfred Donike, a German scientist, began the first full-scale testing of athletes at the Munich games. Using the HP 7600A, he reduced the screening process from 15 steps to three. His method was considered so accurate that no outside challenges to his findings were allowed.

At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, Donike’s laboratory disqualified 19 athletes; many other competitors withdrew before they were due to be tested. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Donike’s testimony—based on a screening method using the HP 5970 Mass Selective Detector—led to the suspension of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. (When Johnson’s defenders claimed that unknown parties had somehow spiked the athlete’s drink, Donike declared, “How can anyone seriously state such nonsense?”)

Donike died of a heart attack on Aug. 21, 1995, at age 61. “His contributions over the past 25 years have been innumerable,” said UCLA’s Dr. Don Catlin, a pioneer in modern drug-testing for sports. “He devised all the chemical methods of identifying prohibited substances.”

In 1997, HP established the Manfred Donike Award to recognize “scientists who exemplify the spirit and scientific leadership of doping control pioneer Manfred Donike, and whose contributions significantly increase fairness in sports competition.” The award continues to be given annually by Agilent.

7600A GCToday, Agilent remains a leader in gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Ever since Agilent’s chemical analysis product was selected for the 1972 Olympics, the company has been the major supplier of drug-testing equipment for elite sports competitions worldwide, including the World Cup and the Tour de France. Agilent also provides drug-testing solutions to law enforcement and forensics laboratories worldwide that allow scientists to identify, confirm and quantify thousands of substances in a wide variety of samples.

For more information go to;

Remembering Art Fong

Agilent looks back at “Mr. Microwave”

July 24, 2012 – Agilent salutes the life of Art Fong, who passed away earlier this year. Although Art retired from Hewlett-Packard before Agilent was launched, he is a critical part of our company’s history. Art was the sixth R&D engineer hired by HP in the 1940s and the company’s first Asian-American employee. When he passed away, his memorial service was hosted at Agilent headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

Over his long career, Art was responsible for many of the inventions and innovations behind Agilent’s current measurement technologies. In the mid 1960s, 27 percent of HP’s total revenue came from his designs. Attenuators that he designed in 1959 were still listed in Agilent’s 2005 product catalog. These accomplishments earned him the HP nickname “Mr. Microwave.”

“Art’s career at HP is legendary,” says John Minck, a fellow HP engineer and the company’s unofficial historian. “From a long list of signal generators across the microwave spectrum to the blockbuster HP 8551A spectrum analyzer, Art’s project leadership was unparalleled in microwave test equipment annals.

“His decades at Hewlett-Packard gave HP significant revenues, which helped enormously in the company’s stellar growth in the mid-20th century.”

“Art was a role model for all HP engineers,” says retired Agilent CEO Ned Barnholt. “He was smart, innovative and a team player who was always willing to help others. He was also down to earth and a real nice guy. He will be missed.”

A lifetime of contribution

HP 8551 spectrum analyzer

Art Fong was born in Sacramento, Calif., in 1920, the son of Chinese immigrants. He was expected to follow his father in the family’s grocery business, but instead he went to college at the University of California in Los Angeles and in Berkeley.

While Art was attending UC Berkeley, the United States entered World War II. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1943, Art moved to Boston to fulfill his Navy commission. He did research for the U.S. Department of Defense at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, where he contributed to the development of radar.

Another California technologist, Bill Hewlett, was serving in the Army Signal Corps and heard of Art’s radar work. In 1946, after the end of the war, Bill visited Art and offered him a job at Bill’s small startup, Hewlett-Packard. The deal was finalized that evening with a handshake. Art never even asked about salary until he showed up for his first day of work in California.

Art served HP for the next 50 years—40 years as an employee until he retired, followed by 10 years as a consultant. Over that time, he made significant engineering contributions to HP and the measurement industry, including impedance-measuring instruments, a line of signal generators, and the first calibrated microwave spectrum analyzer.

An invention ahead of its time

Police Radar

Among Art’s most important and interesting innovations were his contributions to radar technology.

“While we were at MIT Labs we had talked about [a police radar] with various people, but nobody had built one,” Art recalled in a 2009 interview. “I got to HP [and one day] I was up in San Francisco in one of those surplus stores. I saw all that x-band gear up there, and for fun I bought a parabola to build one.

“One coffee break we all went outside and I wanted to show the radar. Hewlett even joined us for a bit and said, ‘That’s real nice, Art, but we don’t want to make something like that. We’re in the instrument business.’

“It was about 20 years later before the commercial police radar came out. Of course, they’re a lot smaller. The one I made just helped prove that the idea was there.”

From the HP blog, “The Next Bench.”

“Dad loved working for HP,” Art’s daughter Sheryl recalls. “It was the perfect place for someone who was smart, creative and hardworking and was given the freedom to work on a project to its completion.”

Throughout his life, Art remained modest about his many contributions. “I was just one of the guys,” he said about his years at HP. “What drives me is I like to see something work.”

Art and his wife, Mary, established scholarships and fellowships for UC Berkeley and Stanford. Their many philanthropic contributions went to places such as the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

Art passed away peacefully at his home on May 17, 2012, at the age of 92.

A celebration of life

Art’s memorial service included his wife of 69 years, his four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Guests also included many long-time employees of HP and Agilent.

“Art never changed, he never seemed to age,” said retired HP Vice President Paul Ely. “Throughout his life he continued to exemplify integrity, trust and the best of the HP Way. Art brought peace, calm and laughter to all around him. It’s no wonder he was so widely admired.”

“His engineering style was always helpful, his vision clear and concise,” John Minck recalled. “I still remember Art, when asked a typically uninformed marketing question by me, would pull out pencil and paper and in a very small script and diagrams lead me to the right answer for a customer.”

“I was at the management meeting where [HP Manufacturing Vice President] Bruce Wholey was forecasting the size of the spectrum analyzer market,” said Alan Bagley, another coworker. “He wanted to show that Art’s new instrument would be very profitable if it only reached 40 percent of the market.

“A year or two later, HP had reached 300 percent of that projected market number. What Art had done was redefine what a spectrum analyzer was. The Hewlett-Packard Company had to form a new division to handle the business.”

Interesting facts

HP Team Visiting China

  • Art had the same birthday—February 11—as famed inventor Thomas Edison.
  • Art had no plans to attend college. One of his high school teachers, convinced of Art’s potential, applied to UCLA for him.
  • While working at MIT during WWII, Art also moonlighted at the Browning Laboratories, where he developed the first AM/FM radio receiver.
  • As the first Asian-American technologist in Silicon Valley, Art faced many cultural barriers. In 1946, it was illegal for Chinese-Americans to rent or buy property in desirable areas of Palo Alto, Calif. Art had to purchase his property near the city limits.
  • Art didn’t earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering until 1968, from Stanford University.
  • In 1979, Art went with HP President John Young to the just-opened People’s Republic of China as a technology lecturer. He would return to China three more times to help the country come up to speed on engineering innovations.

One of the best stories came from Art’s grandson, Christopher Wong, about a time his grandfather was caught speeding:

“Grandpa was ‘coasting’ probably around 75 or 80 miles per hour down this stretch, and sure enough there was a highway patrol officer waiting at the bottom to catch us.

Art Fong with old HP Badge

“After stopping us, the female patrol officer walked up to the door and asked Grandpa, ‘Hi, sir, do you know how fast you were going?’ to which he responded innocently, ‘I don’t know officer, but it was probably a little fast.’ She pulled out her radar gun and it showed his speed limit easily being over the 45 mile per hour limit for the road.

“He smiled. ‘Hey, did you know I helped invent radar?’ he said very matter-of-factly.

“She looked at him skeptically. ‘Yeah, I’m sure you did.’

“Well, this was Grandpa’s cue, and he launched into his back story about his time as a young engineer at MIT in the midst of WWII working on secret projects, complete with details, all while she started to write him up a ticket. She nodded courteously as he went on with the story, but clearly she wasn’t buying it as an excuse out of the ticket.

“As he wrapped up the story, she handed him the ticket. She said, ‘That’s a nice story, sir. Here’s your ticket. You’ll receive further notice of instructions in the mail in two to three weeks.’
“‘What, you don’t believe me?’ my grandpa replied, exasperated.

“‘Uh, no. But I wrote you a ticket for speeding 50 in a 45 zone, rather than 75 in a 45 zone, since you were so entertaining.’”

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