Chester Carlson (1906-1968)

Chester Floyd Carlson (February 8, 1906 – September 19, 1968) was an American physicist, inventor, and patent attorney born inSeattle, Washington. He is best known for having invented the process of electrophotography, which produced a dry copy rather than a wet copy, as was produced by the mimeograph process. Carlson's process was subsequently renamed xerography, a term that literally means "dry writing."

Carlson's father, Olaf Adolph Carlson, had little formal education, but was described as "brilliant" by a relative. Carlson wrote of his mother, Ellen, that she "was looked up to by her sisters as one of the wisest."

Because of the work he put into supporting his family, Carlson had to take a postgraduate year at his alma mater San Bernardino High School to fill in missed courses. He then entered a cooperative work/study program at Riverside Junior College, working and going to classes in alternating six-week periods. Carlson held three jobs while at Riverside, paying for a cheap one-bedroom apartment for himself and his father. At Riverside, Chester began as a chemistry major, but switched to physics, largely due to a favorite professor.

After three years at Riverside, Chester transferred to the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, his ambition since high school. His tuition, $260 a year, exceeded his total earnings, and the workload prevented him from earning much money, though he did mow lawns and do odd jobs on weekends, and work at a cement factory in the summer. By the time he graduated, he was $1,500 in debt. He graduated with good—but not exceptional, grades, earning a B.S. degree in Physics in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression. He wrote letters seeking employment to 82 companies; none offered him a job.



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