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Chester Carlson

AKA Chester Floyd Carlson

Born: 8-Feb-1906
Birthplace: Seattle, WA
Died: 19-Sep-1968
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Buddhist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Physicist
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Invented Xerography

Trained in physics, Chester Carlson was unable to find work in that field, and instead worked at Bell Telephone until he was laid off during the Great Depression. He found clerical work in the patent room at a small electronics form, P.R. Mallory & Company, located behind a beauty parlor in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. Tinkering in his spare time, he devised the process for electrostatics, in which a charged metal plate is dusted with a powder that picks up an image when exposed to light, and transfers that image to paper. On 22 October 1938, Carlson scribbled the date and the word 'Astoria' on a microscope slide, and with a blast of light and a dusting of chemicals, produced a legible copy.

Lacking the funds to construct a working electrophotograph machine, Carlson offered his invention to corporate giants from General Electric to IBM to RCA, but found little interest. Frustrated, he went to night school and earned his law degree, then finally turned to his employer's lawyer, Sol Linowitz, who helped shepherd the project to the Battelle Memorial Institute in 1944, with Carlson getting a share of future royalties.

Battelle sold the rights to the Haloid Corporation in 1947, and Haloid began manufacturing the first commercial copy machine two years later. Electrophotography became better known as Xerography, after Haloid renamed itself The Xerox Corporation (Xerox was derived from the Greek language, and means dry writing). Carlson's employer, P.R. Mallory & Company, introduced Duracell batteries in 1964, grew to Fortune 500 status, and was later absorbed into Gillette. And the inventor, Mr. Carlson, retired at the age of 39, became a multi-millionaire and philanthropist, and quietly gave over $100M to charitable causes in his lifetime, including Cal Tech, the United Negro College Fund, and assorted pacifist, civil rights, and Buddhist organizations.

Father: Olaf Adolph Carlson (barber, d. circa 1932)
Mother: Ellen Josephine Hawkins Carlson (maid, b. 1870, d. 1923 tuberculosis)
Wife: Elsa von Mallen (m. 1934, div. 1945)
Wife: Dorris Carlson (m. 1946, d. 1998)
Daughter: Catherine Carlson

    University: Riverside Community College (1928)
    University: BS Physics, California Institute of Technology (1930)
    Law School: LLB, New York Law School (1939)

    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Xerox Consultant (1944-68)
    Duracell (PR Mallory & Co., 1933-44)
    Bell Laboratories Research engineer (1930-33)
    United Negro College Fund
    Swedish Ancestry

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