Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg--Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machine.
Today, we take for granted the ability to copy a newspaper clipping or a legal paper. However, before xerography, it was difficult to share such documents. Intrigued by this generally unheralded development. Owen focuses on Chester Carlson, who invented xerography. Born of modest means at the turn of the twentieth century, Carlson earned a Ph.D. in physics and then found himself mired in the Great Depression and a job in the patent office of an electronics firm in New York City. Convinced that he could make a major contribution to the world while making his work easier, he set out to invent a copier. In a relatively short period, he had a viable prototype and a patent. However, his idea was turned down repeatedly by companies such as General Electric and IBM. By the time two executives at a company then called Haloid took notice, time was running out on his patent. The race was on to develop a copier that they could take to market. The team accomplished its goal and Xerox Corporation was born. Today, people make about 2 trillion copies a year. Carlson earned millions from his invention and lived a frugal yet philanthropic life. S&S, 2004, 306 p., hardcover, $24.00.