Gamma Scientific History

Gamma Scientific Founding

Gamma Scientific was founded in San Diego, California in 1961 by Harold Field and Royal Akin. Harold Field had been an executive at Stromberg Carlson and Royal Akin a researcher at the Visibility Laboratory of the University of California San Diego. It was their vision to furnish customers with instruments dedicated to accuracy, versatility and ease of operation in the area of light measurement. 

Early Growth in Optical Radiation Measurements

Throughout the 1960s Gamma Scientific grew its product portfolio by adding lamp-based sources as standards for flux, illuminance, irradiance, spectral irradiance and luminance, as well as low light level sources for the characterization of sensitivity and resolution of early night vision devices. The advent of optical fibers built into microscope eyepieces led to instrument families capable of measuring very small spots of light, including those created by an electron beam on Cathode Ray Tube displays. This competency in ultra-sensitive photomultiplier detectors allowed Gamma Scientific to build a unique niche in the developing semiconductor manufacturing market.

Highway Safety Retroreflection, Head Up Displays (HUD) and Faster Spectroradiometric Measurements

During the 1970’s, Gamma Scientific continued to improve the quality and performance of its detector amplifier electronics through advances in stability, linearity, and sensitivity. Its lamp-based light sources also evolved in conjunction with newly established irradiance standards from the US National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). The company also started producing instrumentation to characterize the retroreflection properties of highway safety materials including road markings and signage, along with highly sensitive photomultiplier detectors used for measurement of luminance and angular position in aircraft cockpit Head-Up and direct view displays. 

Significant Growth and EG&G Acquisition

The company entered the 1980’s with a significant growth phase by introducing the first microcomputer based spectroradiometer system. These products found use  in a wide range of applications, but most importantly in areas related to video display performance characterization.  The company’s technology leadership in this area prompted EG&G to acquire the company.    

The Gamma Scientific Division then shifted its focus to computer-controlled spectroradiometers for avionic test systems including the F-18, B-1B, Toranado and C-17. A complete line of photometers, radiometers and optical pulse measurement instruments was also established, including an optical calibration laboratory facility. A significant outcome of this capability was development of the first Night Vision Goggle cockpit display compatibility testing spectroradiometers, which were capable of measurement of 10’s of femtowatts (0.00000000000001 watts) of near infrared optical radiance.

Array Detector Based Spectroradiometer Development

The first photodiode array detector based spectroradiometers were added to the product portfolio by the end of the decade, built on the Optical Multichannel Analyzer (OMA) technology and electronics developed at EG&G Princeton Applied Research.  The 1990’s saw expansion of the array detector spectroradiometer systems in production line monitoring applications for Tin Oxide thickness, antireflection and other thin film coating metrology applications. Production line measurement of commercial light sources also became a significant business area, including production systems for Sylvania (now Osram) and Philips Lighting. 

Company Transition and Acquisitions

In the mid-1990’s,  Belfort Instrument Company located in Baltimore, Maryland acquired Gamma Scientific from EG&G.  Belfort, a manufacturer of meteorological instruments since 1876, funded the development of new portable pavement marking retroreflectometers and improvement of the LaserLux mobile pavement marking retroreflectometer. Later in the decade, the UDT Instruments group was acquired from Graesby Optronics, bringing additional products into the portfolio including photometers, radiometers, colorimeters, position sensing and autocollimator instruments. 

Growth and Expansion in San Diego

Further involvement in the USAF/Boeing C-17 program led to a multi-year contract, and the Highway Safety segment continued to grow through technology innovation and product development. The company’s RadOMA spectroradiometers found use in high speed production testing applications including low-glare antireflection coatings for display and photovoltaic panels, all phases of the LED production process, verification of cockpit display use with night vision goggles and verification of night time color of highway sign materials.  Late in the decade, Belfort spun-off Gamma Scientific as its own, independently operated entity, a business structure under which it continues to operate today. 

Looking Towards the Future

Gamma Scientific continues to maintain a leadership position in low-light level measurement, spectroradiometric systems, precision light sources and high precision integrated test systems. It’s Highway Safety product line also continues to thrive, and with innovative, award-winning solutions in Near Eye Display measurement and SpectralLED®  tunable light sources, responding to customer needs continues to propel the company forward.  Backed up by a NVLAP accredited, ISO/IEC 17025:2017 calibration facility (NVLAP lab code 200823-0), Gamma Scientific solutions are tried, true, robust and accurate – for the next generation in precision light science.