2019 Pittcon Heritage Award for Supelco® Founders

Supelco® founders, Dr. Walter Supina and Mr. Nicholas Pelick, received the prestigious 2019 Pittcon Heritage Award for their contributions to the instrumentation and laboratory supplies community; joining such pioneers as Arnold Beckman, James Waters, and Russell and Sigurd Varian, amongst others.

About the Pittcon Heritage Award

Supelco Founders
The Pittcon Heritage Award is awarded annually by the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon) to recognize outstanding contributions to the instrumentation and laboratory supplies community.

The long-term objective is to establish the Pittcon Heritage Award as the premiere award in the instrumentation and laboratory supplies community, and to encourage emulation, inspire achievement and promote public understanding of modern sciences, industries and economies.

The award has been presented jointly with Pittcon since 2002 and is given out each year at a special ceremony during Pittcon. The recipient's name and achievements are added to the Pittcon Hall of Fame, which conference attendees can visit at the show each year.

Being a part of analytical chemistry history

In the 1960s, chromatography as a practical analytical tool was in its commercial infancy. As instrument companies came on line to develop and introduce gas chromatographs to new markets, Walter (Walt) and Nicholas (Nick) stepped up to become pioneers at serving customers with the consumables; the columns, standards, reagents, and accessories, to get the most out of those instruments. Recognizing the potential of Gas Chromatography (GC) to provide purified lipid standards for medical research, Walt brought his chemical engineering background and Nick his lipid biochemistry education together to form Supelco® in 1966. Starting with a focused line of packed GC adsorbents and columns and lipid standards, their innovations and growth tracked the emerging chromatography field. Through Supelco Inc., Walt and Nick introduced carbonaceous adsorbents in 1971, capillary GC in 1977, entered HPLC in 1979, air monitoring in 1983, and sample prep in 1985.

Supelco Inc., had many "firsts" to the market, with each entry marked with innovations around particles, columns, surface chemistry, and devices that solved particular analytical challenges their customers were facing. While other players have come and gone, the Supelco® enterprise has remained an entity today, still innovating, and still serving the global analytical community as part of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.* But through the years and changes, Supelco® never lost sight of the customer. Nick was quoted saying "We made every effort to show the customer that we gave a damn...we would never sell products that were inferior...we never compromised." To drive that home, the Supelco® brand name is now used to represent all analytical (e.g. chromatography, spectroscopy, titration) products in the Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany portfolio. It is a real testament to the innovation, quality, and customer service culture that Walt and Nick created, and the innovations developed as a result of their passion for the customer and vision of technical leadership are extensive.

Important contributions to public understanding

Pittcon Heritage AwardThrough teaching…

Few people tried to advance the public understanding of chromatography in its early years more than Walt and Nick did. One example that seems so obvious now, but was quite novel at the time, are the Supelco® chromatography short courses which were developed with their encouragement. The courses were aimed at providing practical instruction to users at all levels. Walt also wrote a book called “The Packed Column in Gas Chromatography”. The book was first published in 1974 and was the outgrowth of the column selection short course which Walt began teaching in 1971. The Supelco® team still has that passion for education that we fulfill by conducting workshops, training, webinars and seminars at customer sites, tradeshows, and industry events across the globe. Walt and Nick also taught us about service, and many members of our scientific teams serve on the boards of diverse industry groups and regulatory agencies. We are honored that the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy have awarded Dr. Walter Supina and
Mr. Nicholas Pelick with the 2019 Pittcon Heritage Award.

Thank you, Walt and Nick for building a company that stands for quality and innovation—your legacy lives on in the Supelco® analytical product portfolio of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

As we have been celebrating 350 years of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we raise our peaks and say here’s to 350 more years of quality analytical products without compromise—made by analytical chemists for analytical chemists.

Because our high standards continue to match yours!


* The life science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operates as MilliporeSigma in the U.S. and Canada.