Chester Carlson, the man who changed the way the world shares information, will be inducted into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame, on Oct. 6, in Appleton, Wis. Carlson, the inventor of xerography, will be honored for his process of plain paper copying that revolutionized communications.
The hall of fame recognizes individuals who, through their inventions, initiative and efforts, have helped the world’s paper industry flourish.
Carlson patented the copying concept in 1937, and in 1944 teamed with the Battelle Institute in Ohio to develop the technology. In 1947 he formed a licensing agreement with the Haloid Corporation (which later became Xerox Corporation). The world’s first plain paper copier, the Xerox 914, was launched in 1959.
In 1955, four years before the introduction of the Xerox 914, 20 million copies were made worldwide; in 1964, five years after the Xerox 914 was introduced, 9.5 billion copies were made worldwide, almost all xerographic. That number grew to 550 billion copies in 1984, and today trillions of copies are made around the world each year.
Carlson was born in 1906 in Seattle, Wash., and died in 1968 in New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from California Institute of Technology in 1930 and a Bachelor of Law degree from New York Law School in 1939. While in law school, Carlson was plagued with copying longhand from law books at the New York Public Library because he could not afford to buy them. That experience inspired him to build a copying machine.
Carlson offered his idea to more than two dozen major corporations, all of which expressed what he called “an enthusiastic lack of interest.” However Carlson’s perseverance eventually led to the launch of the 914 copier, dubbed by Fortune magazine as one of “the most successful product ever marketed in America.”