Who Invented Photostat or the Photocopier?
In 1937, an American law student Chester Carlson invented a copying process based on electrostatic energy called Xerography. Xerography became commercially available in 1950 by the Xerox Corporation.
Carlson had been frustrated with the slow mimeograph machine, and the cost of photography, and that lead him to inventing a new way of copying. He invented an electrostatic process that reproduced words on a page in just seconds! Carlson couldn’t find investors for his new invention.
IBM and the U.S. Army Signal Corps turned him down. It took him eight years to find an investor, the Haloid Company, which later became the Xerox Corporation. Carlson filed a patent application in April, 1939, stating, “I knew I had a very big tiger by the tail.” Xerox Corporation also trademarked the name ‘Xerox’ and has protected the name carefully.
Chester Carlson, the inventor of photocopying, was originally a patent attorney, as well as a part-time researcher and inventor. His job at the patent office in New York required him to make a large number of copies of important papers.
Carlson, who was arthritic, found this to be a painful and tedious process. This motivated him to conduct experiments with photoconductivity. Carlson used his kitchen for his “electro photography” experiments, and, in 1938, he applied for a patent for the process.
He made the first photocopy using a zinc plate covered with sulfur. The words “10-22-38 Astoria” were written on a microscope slide, which was placed on top of more sulfur and under a bright light. After the slide was removed, a mirror image of the words remained.
Carlson tried to sell his invention to some companies, but failed because the process was still underdeveloped. At the time, multiple copies were most commonly made at the point of document origination, using carbon paper or manual duplicating machines, and people did not see the need for an electronic machine.
In 1944, the Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio, contracted with Carlson to refine his new process. Over the next five years, the institute conducted experiments to improve the process of electro photography.
In 1947, Haloid Corporation (a small New York-based manufacturer and seller of photographic paper) approached Battelle to obtain a license to develop and market a copying machine based on this technology.