George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

Artur Fischer's Life Illustrates the Power of Invention

Whether taking a photograph, hanging a picture, or doing some work around the house, it’s easy to take for granted all the inventions that make our lives better on a daily basis. But the devices, tools and machines we use every day are all the products of creative genius, hard work and constant innovation. Look around you and you’ll see countless devices that were once the brainchild of a visionary who was able to put his or her idea into practice, secure a patent, and improve the world. One of these visionaries just passed away, and it’s important to recognize him and the patent system that facilitated his extraordinary life in creation.

Artur Fischer is considered one of the greatest inventors of all time, with over 1,100 registered patents. The New York Times recently ran an obituary detailing his life and highlighting many of the inventions that would become regarded as some of the most resourceful of the 20th century and would earn him comparisons to Thomas Edison.

The obituary notes that while Artur Fischer was a locksmith by training, he was a compulsive tinkerer and patented his first invention when he created a synchronized mechanism that triggered a camera flash when the shutter was released. Although Fischer may not have considered himself an inventor at the time, he was looking for a better way to photograph his infant daughter and decided to take matters into his own hands. It wasn’t long before a large camera company bought his device and Fischer was able to dedicate his life and career to coming up with hundreds of solutions to nagging technical problems.

Fischer’s path from mundane job to innovating genius is one that has been repeated by the world’s most respected thinkers and inventors (think Albert Einstein at the Swiss patent office), and one that would not be possible without a strong patent system and assurances in intellectual property rights. Had Fischer not been able to secure a patent in his synchronized flash photography trigger, and subsequently profit from the sale to a large company, he may have just returned to his job as a locksmith and not pursued a passion that led to so many beneficial creations.

Fischer kept tinkering and inventing well into his 80s, telling a German magazine in 2007, “I am interested in any problem to which I can provide a solution.” In 2014, the European Patent Office presented him with a lifetime achievement award recognizing a creative mind and imaginative spirit that only comes along once in a generation. Artur Fischer’s life is a testament that when a great innovator is supported by a patent system that respects and encourages his work, the sky is the limit.