Building a Legacy of Quality


By Gene Nichols, Avantor Performance Materials

John Townsend Baker, the man whose name adorns the respected J.T.Baker brand of analytical chemistries, was an innovator at heart. He was a pioneer who established a brand that revolutionized chemical quality and data transparency, and would be used in groundbreaking research and manufacturing applications for more than a century to come.

But in the years before the J.T.Baker brand was born, John Townsend Baker was merely a pragmatic college student looking to improve his chemistry grades.

J.T.Baker studied chemistry at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. After receiving a less-than-stellar grade in a chemistry lab, he realized that the laboratory chemicals he was using in class were not sufficiently pure to facilitate accurate results. At this point, a typical college student would simply sigh and move on to the next assignment. J.T.Baker, clearly, was not a typical student. He engaged his entrepreneurial spirit and began a quest to provide laboratory scientists with chemicals that were as pure as those used in commercial production.

Baker met his goal — and accelerated his career — in 1904 when he founded the J.T.Baker Chemical Company along the Delaware River near the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The original mission of the J.T.Baker Chemical Company was concise, yet profound: Produce chemicals of the “highest degree of purity commercially available.” Baker established the iconic J.T.Baker brand and began living his new company’s mission immediately.

The J.T.Baker brand was the first to include labels that listed accurate analyses of trace impurity levels. It sounds simple now, but at the time J.T.Baker labels represented a major step forward in data transparency and laboratory efficiency. It saved chemists valuable time and rework, and increased their confidence in lab results.

Within a few short years, the brand was gaining recognition as a cutting-edge solution with unique levels of purity. It was driving innovation in laboratories and manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S., and it was helping to shape the future.

During World War I, J.T.Baker materials were used in the manufacturing of munitions and medicines, including many drugs that were not available in the U.S. prior to the war. During World War II, the brand was essential in many testing and quality-control applications to support the war efforts.

The innovation of the J.T.Baker brand extended to material packaging and safety. To preserve the purity of the chemicals ― and to protect the individuals who handle them — J.T.Baker developed a new type of packaging for hydrofluoric acid, which corrodes glass. The new ceresin wax bottle became a safe vessel in which to store the corrosive acid. It was used by the J.T.Baker Chemical Company until the 1950s and was the predecessor to the polyethylene bottles that are used widely today.

By the 1970s, the J.T.Baker brand had extended its reputation for quality around the globe and, in one case, beyond: J.T.Baker brand ULTREX phosphorous pentoxide was used by scientists to study and analyze lunar samples brought home from the historic Apollo 11 mission.

Built on a legacy of innovation and performance, the J.T.Baker brand has grown — in both reputation and scope — considerably over the past quarter century. Today, J.T.Baker brand chemicals are trusted by many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical producers, academic and corporate laboratories, and electronics manufacturers.

J.T.Baker brand chemicals and reagents have played a role in the development of life-saving medicines and world-changing technologies, and they have been used to test the quality of the food we eat, the water we drink and the products we use every day.

Back in 1904, the J.T.Baker brand was produced in a humble, single-building facility on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. John Townsend Baker himself would often row a boat across the Delaware River to get to his office in the morning.

Today — more than 110 years later — the J.T.Baker brand is manufactured in cGMP facilities in the U.S., Europe and India. It is one of the most widely known and respected brands of analytical chemicals in the world, and it is available through a robust distribution network that now includes Fisher Scientific.

Most importantly, the J.T.Baker brand still stands for chemical quality and data transparency, and continues to instill confidence and drive innovation in laboratories worldwide. Some things never change.