Robert Gundlach Biography (1926-)


Robert Gundlach nurtured the new science of xerography from its infancy to its adulthood. Today his well- reared child--the photocopier--is largely takenfor granted. Although the son of a cosmetic chemist, Gundlach found physics to be more accessible and intriguing.

In 1949 he earned a B.S. in physics from the University of Buffalo, New York.He pursued but did not finish a M.S. degree in physics from the same institution, opting to work instead. After a short stint with the Durez Plastic Company, Gundlach joined the Haloid Company, a small photographic firm.

He quickly made his mark. While Chester Carlson, the inventor of xerography,and others were developing the first fully automated photocopier, the model 914, Gundlach worked on later models. Early photocopiers were cumbersome and slow, requiring three or four minutes to produce a single copy. In his first year with Haloid, the 25-year- old Gundlach had three patentable ideas. He developed a process that allowed multiple copies to be produced from the same master image, thus significantly increasing the copier's speed. He also createda process by which solid figures and shapes could be reproduced, which previously had not been possible.

Eight years after Gundlach's arrival, the Haloid Xerox 914 copier made its debut. This machine, which could produce a clear copy in less than a minute, initiated Haloid's transformation into the giant Xerox Corporation. With 15-year exclusive patent rights to xerography, Xerox--and Gundlach--refined copiermachines undisturbed. By the mid-1980s, Xerox copiers could make 120 copies per minute.

In 1975 Gundlach became the first Xerox research fellow. He continues to headXerox's EXITE Lab, a research facility, though he was granted a partial retirement in 1986 to work on his own inventions, which include a snow-making system and a backpack.

Gundlach's contributions to the Xerox Corporation, over 100 patents, set thestandard for copier companies that emerged after Carlson's patents expired. Not only did Gundlach's ideas transform Xerox into one of the world's largestcompanies, they turned the trade name Xerox into a generic term used to designate photocopiers of all types.

Recent Updates

February 10, 2005: It was announced that Gundlach will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in recognition of his innovations in photocopier technology, including the idea of making multiple copies of a document. His induction will take place at a ceremony held in Akron, Ohio, in Mayof 2005. The National Inventors Hall of Fame honors individuals, both livingand dead, whose work has changed society and improved the way we live. Source: Forbes, April 7, 2005.

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