Luther George Simjian

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Luther George Simjian (Armenian: Լութեր Ճորճ (Կարապետ) Սիմճեան; January 28, 1905 – October 23, 1997) was an Armenian-American inventor of numerous devices and owner of over 200 patents.


Born to Armenian parents, Luther Simjian grew up in Aintab, Ottoman Empire. He was separated from his family in the Armenian Genocide.[1] Simjian first went to Beirut, later to Marseille. In 1920 he emigrated to the United States, where he found shelter with relatives in New Haven, Connecticut. Beginning at the age of 15, he worked there as a photographer. He gave up his initial plans of studying medicine when he was engaged as a laboratory photographer by the Yale School of Medicine. Later, in 1928, he became director of their photography department, and invented several machines such as a projector for microscope images.

In 1934 Simjian moved to New York City, where he invented a self-posing portrait camera, with which the photographed person could see and optimize their own image in a mirror before the photo was actually taken. In order to manufacture and distribute the camera, which became a success for use in department stores, he founded the company Photoreflex. Years later, after selling the invention and the trade name, the company was renamed Reflectone, a name drawn from another of Simjian's inventions, a kind of cosmetic chair with movable mirrors, where one could see their own body from all perspectives.

In 1939 Simjian had the idea to build the Bankmatic Automated Teller Machine, probably his most famous invention.[2] He registered 20 patents for it and was considered "prior art device" in subsequent fillings. He finally persuaded the City Bank of New York, today Citibank, to run a 6-month trial. The trial was however not continued — surprisingly not due to technical inefficiencies, but to lack of demand. It seems the only people using the machines were a small number of prostitutes and gamblers who didn't want to deal with tellers face to face, Simjian wrote.[3] Hence Simjian missed out on not only the commercial success, but also the fame associated with inventing the ATM. This credit is often attributed to John Shepherd-Barron (who led the team behind the first electronic cash dispenser) and Donald Wetzel (who directed a $5 million project to build upon Shepherd-Barron's and other European inventions in the late 1960s).

Simjian gained commercial success during World War II with another invention, his Optical Range Estimation Trainer, a kind of simple flight simulator, made from mirrors, light sources and miniature airplanes, used to train US military pilots in estimating the speed and distance of airplanes.[4] Simjian sold over 2000 of these devices. Today's successor of Reflectone (after a number of mergers and acquisitions), CAE, is still making its money with flight simulation and control technology.

Simjian founded several other companies in the following years and invented a number of very different devices and technologies, e. g. a teleprompter, medical ultrasound devices, a remote-controlled postage meter, a golf simulator and a meat tenderizer. He never ceased inventing in his laboratories in Fort Lauderdale. At the age of 92, he got his last patent on a process for improving the sound of wood for musical instruments, seven months before his death in 1997.[5]


  1. ^ Luther Simjian. NNDB. Retrieved February 7, 2014
  2. ^ [ Batiz-Lazo, Bernardo (2008). "Evidence from the Patent Record on the Development of Cash Dispensing Technology".
  3. ^ "Luther George Simjian | Lemelson-MIT Program". Retrieved 2018-07-18.
  4. ^ Garraty, John A. (2005). American national biography (Rev. ed.). New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 9780195222029.
  5. ^ "Edison Of Our Time".

USPTO links[edit]

  • [1] Listing of patents with Inventor attributed to Luther G Simjian.
    • [2] March 29, 1960 - Apparatus For Collecting An Article For Deposit
    • [3] June 14, 1960 - Apparatus And Method For Determining The Character Of A Document

External links[edit]