Dean M. Peterson, the engineer who designed the world’s most popular camera, died on June 14 of cancer. He was 72.
Born in Wessington, S.D., Peterson graduated from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology with a bachelor’s degree in general engineering. He was hired by Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y., but took a leave of absence when the U.S. Army drafted him.
Peterson returned to Kodak after two years of stateside duty. At night, he studied for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester; during the day, he developed the Kodak Instamatic camera. The first Instamatic was released in 1963 and became an instant hit with the public. During its first seven years on the market, the camera reached $50 million in sales.
In 1968, Peterson moved to Denver to work on optic technology for Honeywell Inc. There he helped create a camera that included automatic focus, automatic film advance and a built-in electronic flash. Ten years later, he accepted a position with Fisher-Price Toys in San Diego to design child-friendly audiocassette players.
Peterson’s final invention, patented in 1996, was a single action fly fishing reel with an infinitely variable silent drag.