About the Coulter Foundation
Coulter supports Pitt's finest scientists, engineers and clinicians as they
conduct translational research and commercialize technology. Yet the program
was made possible by the outstanding success of an inventor who was unable to
complete college due to the hardships of the Great Depression. Wallace H.
Coulter may not be a name as widely recognized as Thomas Edison, Marie Curie,
or Jonas Salk, but like his more famous counterparts, his discoveries made
wide-reaching contributions to modern medicine, science, and industry.
Coulter Principle, discovered during experiments conducted in the 1940s, states
that particles moving through an aperture under electric current produce
changes in impedance proportional to particle volume. In an excellent example
of translating scientific theory into practice, the Coulter Counter was
developed to replace manual counting of blood cells under a microscope, which
is time-consuming and lacks objectivity. It was the first of many similar
instruments used for a wide range of applications, including the complete blood
count or "CBC" that remains the most commonly ordered diagnostic test
in the world.
Counter-type instruments are also used to analyze more granular blood
components, as well as perform quality checks on such substances as paint,
chocolate, cosmetics, and jet fuel. The invention, one of 82 Coulter patented
throughout his life, was manufactured and sold by Coulter Electronics, an
international company based in Miami, Florida which provided the wealth to
establish the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation before the inventor’s death in 1998.