Leonard Skeggs (1918-2002)
American biochemist Leonard Skeggs is best known for inventing the AutoAnalyzer in the 1950s. His machine automated blood analysis and advanced laboratory diagnostic technology. Skeggs also worked on artificial kidney machines and identified the ACE enzyme which lowers blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
Skeggs studied biochemistry at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio at the outbreak of the Second World War. He worked at a laboratory drying human blood plasma for use on the battlefield. He then joined the US Navy as a gunner and minesweeper.
After the war Skeggs restarted his studies and gained his doctorate in 1948. He took a job in charge of the clinical chemistry laboratory at a local hospital. He and his colleague Jack Leonards began working on artificial kidneys, and built a kidney machine that was more compact and effective than earlier machines.
Skeggs also became interested in a different problem. With only four technicians in his laboratory, analysing patient blood samples took a long time. Results were often unreliable. Skeggs set up a workshop in his home and built his first AutoAnalyzer prototype in 1951. Automation revolutionised laboratory testing and led to other automated laboratory machines being developed.
Skeggs initially found no companies were interested in manufacturing his machine. Eventually the Technicon Corporation bought his design in 1954. Only 50 of the machines were sold in 1957, but 18,000 were sold in 1969 alone.
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BibliographyL Lewis, ‘Leonard Tucker Skeggs – a multifaceted diamond’, Clinical Chemistry, 27/10 (1981), pp 1465-1468
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