Varian Medical Systems

Early Varian founders and employees

Varian Medical Systems is the world’s leading provider of equipment and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, brachytherapy, proton therapy, and radiosurgery. The company is also the largest independent supplier of X-ray tubes and flat panel digital X-ray image detectors for filmless imaging equipment used in medical, scientific, and industrial applications. Varian’s high-energy X-ray imaging technology is used in cargo screening and non-destructive testing and inspection systems.

The Palo Alto-based company was founded under the name Varian Associates in 1948 by brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian and others, including a number of Stanford University researchers. The founders developed the klystron tube, which became the foundation for radar and microwave communications, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology, which led to great advances in molecular research. The company went on to develop analytical instruments, vacuum products, and semiconductor manufacturing products.

In 1999, after spinning off its instrument and semiconductor units, it was renamed Varian Medical Systems, a multinational organization focusing on products for radiotherapy, radiosurgery, and X-ray imaging. As of the end of 2006, the company had more than $1.6 billion in sales, and employed more than 4,200 employees in 56 sales and support offices around the world as well as in manufacturing and R&D operations in Canada, China, England, Finland, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Varian x-ray tubes

More than 100,000 patients are now treated daily with Varian cancer treatment technology worldwide. Providing high performing products that include linear accelerators and software for managing patient information, treatment planning, verification, delivery, and quality assurance, Varian technology offers patients advanced radiotherapy treatments, including SmartBeam™ intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT); image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery (IGRT and IGRS); dynamic adaptive radiotherapy (DART™), and proton therapy. Simply put, the mission of the company’s Oncology Systems business is to cure cancer.

More recently, Varian launched a line of advanced technology for treating cancer and disorders of the central nervous system with radiosurgery and neurosurgery. The company’s leading-edge Trilogy® linear accelerator combines a powerful, highly focused radiation beam with advanced imaging capabilities to offer patients fast and effective image-guided radiosurgery that can be done on an outpatient basis.

The X-ray Products business, based in Salt Lake City, manufactures more than 400 types of X-ray tubes as well as the PaxScan® line of flat-panel digital X-ray image detectors for diagnostic imaging. The unit’s manufacturing plant produces more than 22,000 tubes per year.

The Security and Inspection Products group is the market leader in high-energy X-ray linear accelerators for non-destructive testing and cargo screening. Varian’s Linatron® X-ray accelerators are in use in cargo scanning systems at ports in over 35 countries around the world. The group’s new Linatron K9™ accelerator makes it possible, for the first time, to build cargo-screening systems that can scan containers and automatically determine whether they contain weapons of mass destruction.
With CEO and president Tim Guertin at the helm, Varian Medical Systems is now building on nearly 60 years of innovation and excellence by pursuing new technologies and products that promise ever-higher levels of disease management, diagnostic imaging, and security.

This history was written in 2008 by the Silicon Valley Historical Association.

Varian website