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Waters Corp. founder and namesake Jim Waters dies at age 95

The inventor started the business in the basement of the old Framingham Police Department, and now it has 7,400 employees.

Waters Corp. founder Jim Waters visited the company he launched in 2018 to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Waters Corp. founder Jim Waters visited the company he launched in 2018 to celebrate its 60th anniversary.David Fox, Photographer

Waters Corp. founder Jim Waters has died at the age of 95.

The Milford-based manufacturer of scientific instruments announced his death on Wednesday, saying the businessman and inventor died peacefully on Monday.

Waters left the company he founded more than 40 years ago, but in many ways his presence remained strong over the years there — and not just because the company was named after him. Perhaps most important, Waters had a mantra that he drilled into his employees: “deliver benefit.” Essentially, Waters meant that he didn’t want his team to just manufacture products. He wanted them to make something that was differentiated from anything offered by competitors, with a customer’s needs in mind. It’s a mantra that is still followed by the company today.

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His legacy also lives on in his inventions. Waters was a pioneer in liquid chromatography, a technique for separating and isolating the chemical components in a liquid mixture so they can be accurately measured.

“While we mourn his passing, those who knew and worked alongside him remember Jim Waters as a brilliant and spirited scientist and businessman, who propelled the discipline of separations science with this revolutionary work in liquid chromatography,” said Udit Batra, the company’s chief executive.

The company currently operates in 35 countries, with more than 7,400 employees. But it has humble origins: Waters launched the company in 1958 in the basement of the Framingham Police Department’s former building, with just five employees. The rent was low, Waters told the Globe in 2018, and the space was available. “My office was right under the police station’s bathroom,” he said at the time. “So I heard every time they flushed the toilet.”

His namesake company gradually expanded as it took on new clients, and it hit a big break in the 1960s when it partnered with Dow Chemical on a gel-permeation chromatographic instrument.

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Waters ended up leaving around the time the company was sold to Millipore Corp. in 1980. It was subsequently spun back out in a 1990s management buyout, and is now among the biggest public companies in Massachusetts, with more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Today, a wide range of products ranging from lipstick to painkillers are tested on Waters lab instruments, and the company recently completed a $215 million expansion of its precision chemistry plant in Taunton, its largest-ever capital investment.

Waters was also involved in educational causes, including by establishing the nonprofit Waters Center for Systems Thinking more than 30 year ago, and establishing with his wife Faith an endowed chair in analytical chemistry at Northeastern University. A symposium in his name is held annually at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.