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Clinical laboratories have the responsibility for providing a variety of tests that are crucial to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Currently, they are faced with a growing task in that the half billion tests they now perform annually will double within the next 5 years under the stress of an increasing demand for health services. This is a critical problem whose solution lies in the automation of these laboratories since technical help is in short supply and would be too costly to employ in the amounts needed even if they were available. This paper deals with some of the social, medical, and technical considerations surrounding the automation of these laboratories, and research and development activities of significance. It is imperative that engineers join with clinical scientists in these efforts, as their contributions in the area of basic and applied research and in the development of the instruments, devices, and systems required for total automation of the clinical laboratory are particularly important.