About the Coulter Foundation

Today, 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.

The 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.

Coulter 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.