August 3, 2003 by

Walter Zapp

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Categories: Business, Scientists

wzapp.jpgWalter Zapp, the inventor of the Minox mini camera, died on July 17. Cause of death was not released. He was 97.
In the early 1920s, Zapp worked as an apprentice art photographer in Estonia. A self-described weakling, Zapp found it difficult to carry the heavy wooden cameras used at the time so he decided to create a smaller one.
Fourteen years later, Zapp invented a camera so small it could be hidden within a closed hand. He started manufacturing it in Riga, Latvia, using the first standard 8×11 film cartridge, but production was halted during World War II when Zapp was warned that the Russians planned to co-opt his designs and send him to work in Moscow. Afraid of such a fate, Zapp moved to Germany and co-founded Minox with Richard Jürgens.
Although he never intended it to be used for espionage, the Minox mini camera was featured in several James Bond movies. More than 1 million were sold, but Zapp received none of the profits because he sold the patent for a single, lump sum fee.

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