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Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox

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Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Photocopying is easy, but it took more than pushing a button to build Xerox; it took Joe Wilson.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening
  • Inspiring


This notable biography recounts the remarkable story of Joe Wilson, a shy entrepreneur who overcame tremendous technological and business challenges to develop an entirely new photographic process and create the Xerox Corporation. Wilson was a powerful but quiet leader who motivated employees, family members, business associates and his community to achieve the impossible. Charles D. Ellis presents a comprehensive portrait of the man and his times, highlighting the roles of luck and perseverance. He tells how Wilson built a revolutionary machine even before he had a market and, in that process, pioneered a new technology and transformed his grandfather’s small company into Xerox. The story is slow at times, but getAbstract highly recommends Ellis's inspirational business profile to those who enjoy stories of legendary business leaders and the companies they built.


Images in Rochester

Joseph Chamberlain Wilson was born in December 1909 to Joseph Robert Wilson (known as J.R.) and Katharine Upton Wilson in Rochester, New York. Rochester was the home of Eastman Kodak, the world’s largest supplier of photographic paper and film, and the largest corporation in the state. Joe Wilson's grandfather, J.C. Wilson, entered the specialty paper-coating business in 1906, founding the Haloid Corporation. The small company provided photographic paper to professional photographers at a price cheaper than Kodak’s. By 1907, Haloid had 12 employees.

Joe Wilson was an exceptional student who enjoyed reading and discussing ideas. He developed a strong relationship with his grandfather, who taught him to keep his promises and be reticent about making claims that could not be substantiated. The family developed a close attachment to their hometown, Rochester, and was active in the community. Three generations of Wilsons attended the University of Rochester and came to admire Kodak’s local civic involvement, including concerts at the Eastman School of Music and at the university. Civic involvement characterized Wilson’s life and business. Over his lifetime...

About the Author

Charles D. Ellis founded and for 30 years managed a leading global strategy firm in the financial services industry. He taught investment management at Yale and Harvard, and has written 11 books, including Capital: The Story of Long-Term Investment Excellence.

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