Shedding Light on Optics and the Patent of the First Copy Machine
What’s in a name? What’s in an invention? Copy machines fascinate me. I marvel at these inventions! I see them as the ingenuous marriage of optics and ink cartridge technology. Copy machines have the inner anatomy similar to that of press machines. It’s all about printing, after all. Adding optics to the press and a scanner, you now have a modern printer. But what came before the printer? It was the old-fashioned study of optics. Optics gave us photography. Then photography programs and camera programs came along. Then lasers were created to replicate images. But what exactly are optics and how were the early optic masters in the world of science? I will be doing small writings in the coming weeks to cover these masters and their inventions!
Optics is the study of light and its impact on physical reality. From the early days of the Renaissance and before, optics was a required science for all serious students of science. Galileo who observed the stars was an early optics student and master, having also created different types of lenses for his telescopic journeys. Lenses allowed light to enter our eyes, magnifying images by many multiples, allowing Galileo to see the planets and their movements.
Around 1637, France gave us Rene Descartes’ great inventions and views on scientific integrity via his Cartesian Coordinate System, of the X, Y and Z axis as well as his scientific method. The Cartesian System was a direct result of Descartes’ close studies of optics. As he insisted on measuring the many angles of light as they hit the earth and objects, he realized that light does fall in a three-dimensional way, coming from multiple angles. His understanding of optics allowed Descartes to measure light with his Coordinate System, and also allowed him to create the beginning of systems that could resize objects, minimizing and incrementing objects by using the equations of the X, Y, and Z system as published in his algebraic -geometry studies.
In our modern world, images get scanned with the use of a laser. Lasers are also a branch or a byproduct of advanced optics. Printers use the same elements of photography by enlarging and minimizing images. All of this thanks to the X, Y, Z system of measurement by Descartes, from his optics measuring needs.
I had read of Thomas Alva Edison and other successful inventors, and the idea of making an invention appealed to me as one of the few available means to accomplish a change in one’s economic status, while at the same time bringing to focus my interest in technical things and making it possible to make a contribution to society as well. – Chester Carlson
The inventor of photocopying was Chester Carlson (1908-1968). Mr. Carlson was a patent attorney, originally from Seattle, Washington, who later relocated to New York. His experiments with photoconductivity and electrophotography in 1938 became the foundation of this great invention. He applied for a patent in New York in that same year. His first photocopy was made by using a zinc plate covered with sulfur. At the time, people were using only carbon copy paper, or making manual copies with a traditional duplicating machine. Finally, in 1948, his invention was renamed “xerography” (literally translated as “dry writing”) and xerox machines were born. The name Xerox was then trademarked. Later on, Xerox became Xerox Corporation.
How amazing it is that copy machines of our modern times have such a long trajectory of evolution and that many elements of science and many inventors and scientists have contributed to this marvelous creation. Now copy machines also receive digital imaging via networks and it is all happening within minutes and in full color, resized and in “copious” amounts of “copies”! Now, “xerox” is a household term for duplication. Who knows what exciting new technologies are in store for us in the near future?!
– Dolores “Lolly” Hernandez, Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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