Dr. Pall: Pioneer, Scientist, Entrepreneur
February 22, 2022
Sometimes looking back to the past, shapes the way in which we view what is to come. In the 75 years that Pall Corporation has been operating, large strides in technology and development have been achieved. Looking back at the ingenuity of our founder provides an insight for the potential possibilities that the future holds.
As a pioneer in the field of filtration, separation and purification, innovative scientist Dr. David Pall gave his life’s work to discovering ground-breaking technology and applying this to change the lives of many around the world. He was driven to solve the seemingly unsolvable.
At a young age, Dr. Pall’s curiosity in filtration emerged with a particular fascination in the separation of infectious bacteria from water. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, and then a doctorate in Physical Chemistry, Dr. Pall directed a laboratory in New York city called Interchemical, which manufactured pigments. Whilst here, he was approached by the US government to work on the Manhattan Project which needed his expertise and knowledge in filtration. Dr. Pall was asked if it was possible to separate uranium into its two isomer forms: uranium 235 and uranium 237. He was able to do this by passing the uranium multiple times through miles of porous tubing made of sintered nickel powder, innovatively designed to act as a filter. The lighter uranium 235 would diffuse through the nickel wall faster, concentrating uranium 237 in the tube.
In 1946, at a time of economic recovery after the war, Dr. Pall founded the Micro Metallic Company in Queens, NY. This became Pall Corporation in 1957. Towards the end of the 1950’s fear struck the airline industry. The New York Times reported a complete hydraulic failure in the Boeing 707, forcing it to make an emergency landing. This happened again soon after to another Boeing jet, forcing it to jettison fuel over the Atlantic and rely upon its auxiliary systems to lower the landing gear. This was a critical situation that needed to be resolved quickly. Dr Pall actively pursued a robust solution. He discovered that the paper filters in use were insufficient to protect the valves and pumps and were prone to contamination. So, he created a porous stainless-steel filter known as Rigimesh media to replace the paper ones. This was a major success and this initiated Pall’s growth in the commercial airline business.
Around the same time Dr. Pall’s wife, Josephine, sadly fell ill with aplastic anaemia, a condition that resulted in too few blood cells being produced requiring treatment with whole blood transfusions. These transfusions often cause an immune response from the white blood cells in the donor’s blood and sadly she passed away in 1959. This personal tragedy widened Dr. Pall’s trajectory from manufacturing aircraft filters to also studying human blood. He worked to develop a filter to remove white blood cells from a blood transfusion. This would decrease viral infection and transfusion reactions in the recipient of the blood.
Throughout the 70s, Dr. Pall developed the Ultipor blood filter, designed to remove microemboli from transfused blood. He also developed an extracorporeal blood filter for use in bypass surgery. This then led to the invention of the intravenous filter which removes air from intravenous fluids. A period of growth, development, and discovery commenced not only within the field of filtration, but within the company of Pall too. By the 80’s, a line of leukocyte (white blood cells) reducing filters were developed that could be used by the patient’s bedside. This then evolved to be used at hospital blood banks and also used pre-storage at blood collection centers. The leukoreduction filter has become one of Dr. Pall’s most significant inventions, and these still safeguard health today.
Dr. Pall knew the importance of critical filtration and developed the application of filter integrity testing, creating the Forward Flow test in 1973. Essentially, this measures the diffusive flow of gas through all the wetted pores of a microporous membrane and bulk gas flow through larger non-wetted pores or defects. When performed using a pre-determined gas pressure, it can identify defects that may impact the performance of the membrane in question. Initially filter integrity testing was manual but with the advancement in FDA guidance and GMP regulation, the need for high performance integrity testing became more apparent and critical, so Dr. Pall developed the first purpose-built automated integrity test instrument for the pharmaceutical market in the 1980’s.
This multitude of discoveries and forward-thinking inventions led to Dr. Pall achieving 181 patents, making Dr. Pall one of the world’s most important technology innovators. Dr. Pall received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1990 from George W. Bush for this achievement.
Dr. Pall was a man of innovation, developing original and practical solutions in response to real life problems. His 75-year legacy lives on.
To discover more about the amazing people who continue his legacy please read our biographies page.
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