Monday, August 3, 2009

Agilent and Varian

Last week, Agilent announced intent to buy the Life Sciences portion of Varian, one of the three strands of the original Varian Associates, now fifty-some years old. The San Jose Mercury-News carried a nice story in the Sunday edition, describing some of the long history between the two companies.

The ties, of course, were strong and deep. The Varian brothers were friends with Bill n Dave; Dave was on their Board for many years. Varian was the first company into the Stanford Industrial Park; HP second. Terman was on both Boards. Packard's first "company acquisition" was buying the microwave components segment of Varian in the early 1950's when they moved into NMR (later MRI).

The story did not mention that HP Cupertino began as a Varian site, and when Varian had cash flow problems in the 1970-71 recession, HP bought the site from them for $5M (their asking price), which has been a pretty good purchase, all things considered.

Nor did it mention that much of HP's early semiconductor leadership came from Varian as well, and even the Computer History Museum in its celebration of the 50th year since Fairchild's planar transistor has to date omitted HP's singinficant contributions in this sphere. Does anyone care?

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