Whatman plc

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Whatman plc
(part of GE Healthcare Life Sciences)
Founded1740; 279 years ago (1740) in Maidstone, Kent, United Kingdom[1]
FounderJames Whatman
Key people
Kieran Murphy
(CEO & Executive GE Healthcare Life Sciences)
ParentGE Healthcare

Whatman plc is a GE Healthcare Life Sciences brand specialising in laboratory filtration products and separation technologies.

Whatman products cover a range of laboratory applications that require filtration, sample collection (cards and kits), blotting, lateral flow components and flow-through assays and other general laboratory accessories.

Formerly Whatman plc, the company was acquired in 2008 by GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric.


Founders Innovation and Impact[edit]

Mr. Whatman's Turkey Paper Mills by Paul Sandby (1794)

Founded in 1740 in Maidstone, Kent, England, Whatman paper was created by papermaker James Whatman the Elder (1702–1759). He made revolutionary advances to the craft in England and is credited as the inventor of wove paper (or Vélin), an innovation used for high quality art and printing. The techniques continued to be developed by his son, James Whatman the Younger (1741–1798).[2] At a time when the craft was based in smaller paper mills, his innovations led to the large scale and widespread industrialisation of paper manufacturing.

Whatman had been approached by John Baskerville, who needed paper that would take a light impression of the printing plate; this was used for the edition of Virgil's poetry, embellished with Baskerville's typography and designs.[2] The earliest examples of wove paper, bearing his watermark, appeared after 1740.[3]

The business is credited with the invention of the wove wire mesh used to mould and align the pulp fibres. This is the principal method used in the mass production of most modern paper. The Whatmans held a part interest in the establishment at Turkey Mill, near Maidstone, after 1740;[1] this was acquired through the elder Whatman's marriage to Ann Harris.

The "handmade" paper bearing the Whatman's mark was still produced for special editions and art books[2] until 2002.[4]


Whatman plc was acquired on 4 February 2008 by GE Healthcare, a unit of General Electric, at 270p per share in cash for each Whatman share, valuing Whatman at approximately £363 million (approximately $713 million.) Last production at Maidstone (Springfield Mill) was on 17 June 2014.[4]

Key products and technologies[edit]

The Whatman product range covers

  • Laboratory filtration products: filter papers, membrane filters, syringe filters, syringeless filters, microbiology, microplates, and capsule filters
  • Sample collection cards and kits: FTA, FTA Elute, and 903 ranges
  • Blotting: blotting membranes, blotting papers, and equipment
  • Components for lateral flow and flow-through assays: membranes for immunoassays, conjugate release, blood separators, absorbents, and sample pads
  • General laboratory accessories: extraction thimbles, weighing papers, test and chromatography papers, lens-cleaning tissue, and Benchkote papers


  1. ^ a b "The Early Years". Whatman. Archived from the original on 2008-03-28.
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, Matt T.; Etherington, Don (2011-11-19). "Whatman, James (1741–1798)". Bookbinding and the conservation of books: A dictionary of descriptive terminology. U.S. Government Printing Office. ISBN 978-0-8444-0366-3. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  3. ^ "Watermark and countermark library". Conservation. National Gallery of Australia. 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
  4. ^ a b Chalmers, Mark (September 2016). "Whatman - Springfield Paper Mill, Maidstone". Archive. Witney: Lightmoor Press (91): 52–65.