Chester Floyd Carlson, Father of the Photocopy

Father of the Photocopy

1945 10-22-38 Astoria. So read the world’s first photocopy on Oct. 22, 1938, in Astoria, N.Y. Physicist Chester Floyd Carlson and his assistant Otto Kornei, while dabbling in photoconductivity, poured sulfur across a zinc plate and zapped it with a white-hot light. Carlson then blew the remaining sulfur from the sheet, and voil¿The paper read "10-22-38 Astoria," an exact duplicate of the scribbling on a microscope slide that lay across the plate.

Carlson pitched his invention to companies such as GE, IBM, Kodak and RCA but was rejected by all of them. (Rejection and loss became a familiar theme for Carlson during the next six years: his wife left him, his assistant Kornei left him, and a heap of debt accumulated all thanks to his copying pursuits.) But then, in 1944, the nonprofit Battelle Institute offered Carlson $3,000 for further research in exchange for three-quarters of future royalties. After the rights to his invention were purchased by the Haloid Co. (later Xerox) and the Greek term xerography (translation: "dry writing") was coined, Carlson went on to bank $150 million and became the father of possibly the most ubiquitous piece of contemporary office equipment.

-Daniel J. Horgan

Other Notable Events

4 The Soviets jump to an early lead in the space race with the launch of Sputnik on this day in 1957.

5 The first radio conversation with a submerged submarine happens in 1919. The U.S.S. H-2 radioed the destroyer Blakey from the depths of the Hudson River.

14 From the confines of the Apollo 7 spacecraft, the first live telecast from space takes place in 1968.

18 Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric lightbulb, the universal stock ticker and the motion picture camera dies in 1931.

19 The Justice Department’s antitrust trial against Microsoft gets underway in 1998. Microsoft is accused of bullying PC makers into providing Explorer as the default browser instead of rival Netscape Navigator.

Sources: About.com, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, History Channel, HowStuffWorks, Tripod

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