Waters Corporation Celebrates the Life and Legacy of its Founder, Jim Waters

Published on: 
Column, June 2021, Volume 17, Issue 06
Pages: 7

Waters Corporation founder James L. Waters, a legendary inventor and pioneer in liquid chromatography whose work spurred a multi-billion-dollar industry and helped advance numerous scientific breakthroughs, passed away peacefully on May 17th. He was 95 years old.

Born October 7th, 1925, in Nebraska, Jim Waters relocated with his family to Framingham, Massachusetts, following a career opportunity for his father. It was from this new home that Jim Waters would launch his company, Waters Associates, in 1958 in the basement of the Framingham Police Department, with the intent to build scientific instruments. With just five employees, the company broke through in 1965 when it licensed a refractometer from Dow Chemical for analyzing plastics. Jim built an instrument around the refractometer, sales skyrocketed, and the company was on the road to success.

Seven years later, Jim’s biggest triumph came when the company solved a problem for Harvard Professor Robert Woodward, who was working on the synthesis of vitamin B12. Woodward had already won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1965 for being the first to synthesize chlorophyll, and at Woodward’s request, Jim Waters accompanied a team to Woodward’s laboratory with a liquid chromatograph and solved the problem in the span of a few weeks. The Waters liquid chromatograph, and ones that came later, now help drive pharmaceutical drug discovery, development, and manufacturing throughout the world.

“While we mourn his passing, those who knew and worked alongside him remember Jim Waters as a brilliant and spirited scientist and businessman, who propelled the discipline of separations science with his revolutionary work in liquid chromatography,” said Udit Batra, CEO and President of Waters Corporation. “Alongside his loving family, our company and industry celebrate the legacy of this special man who always sought to ‘deliver benefit’ and whose work continues to catalyze innovation across the life, materials, and food sciences, and today contributes to the fast-evolving science on COVID-19 vaccine development and disease research.”


A symposium in his name is held annually at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon), an analytical instrument industry trade show and conference.

Waters has released a tribute video to Jim Waters, which is available to watch here: A Legacy of Delivering Benefit