Karel Schinzel

20 December 1886, Edrovice near Bruntál – 23 November 1951, Vienna (Austria)
Karel Schinzel was an inventor of technological procedures in the processing of colour photography and explosives.

Schinzel’s family moved from a small village near Bruntál to Opava in 1896. His father made and sold blinds and expected his first-born son to join him in the family business. Although Karel studied business, he was more interested in chemistry. After his studies at business school he chose not to work with his father, but got a job as an accountant in a chemical factory as it gave him the opportunity to experiment with colour photography processing. In 1905 he was granted an Austrian patent for the “Processing of colour photograph”.

Schinzel left to study in Vienna at Technical University where he earned a degree in engineering. After he had returned home, he was drafted into the army where he worked with explosives. He then started to research the production of explosives. He wrote a dissertation on the use of mannitol and sorbitol in explosives, for which he received a doctorate in Vienna. He then returned to Opava, where he changed his father’s house into a chemical research laboratory and went on to get a number of world-class patents.

Schinzel published his research in the magazine Das Lichtbild, drawing attention of a German photograph company Agfa and American Kodak. Kodak bought a total of 27 patents from Schinzel. In 1937 he worked for Kodak in Rochester and London to improve the Kodachrome process. He never returned to Opava, choosing to settle in Baden near Vienna in March 1938. At the end of the war Schinzel’s laboratory and library were destroyed in the bombing of Baden. Devastated, Schinzel returned to Vienna where he used the remaining fragments of his notes to write a book on colour photography. In November 1951 he suddenly went blind and died of a heart attack later that month.