Dean M. Peterson
BS, Engineering, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, 1954
South Dakota Mines, 1953
Wife: Mary, Children: Marshall, Michael
Dean Peterson, engineer and inventor, was personally responsible for two of the 20th century’s greatest consumer products revolutions. Born and raised in South Dakota, he attended Northern State Teachers College for two years before transferring to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, earning a BS from SDSM&T in 1954 as a member of Triangle. He went to work for Eastman Kodak after graduation and serving two years in the Army.
Peterson’s invention and development of the Kodak Instamatic® camera in the 1960’s heralded an unprecedented explosion in amateur snapshot photography. With over 80,000,000 units sold by 1970, there were few American households without an Instamatic.
In the 1970’s, Peterson was principally responsible for many of the innovations that made possible the “point and shoot” camera revolution. Automatic focus, off-the-film metering, auto advance and built-in self-quenching flash: all were brand-new and all were featured on the “Project Beehive” camera developed by Peterson and his team, and introduced by Honeywell at Photokina in 1972. The technologies from the “beehive” camera continue to resonate throughout the photography, digital photography, cinematography and video industries.
For his accomplishments in the field, Dean was one of four named Fellows of the Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers in 1975. He also received accolades from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers and the Society of Plastic Engineers. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from SDSM&T in 2000, and was posthumously named to the Aberdeen Central High School Hall of Fame in only the second year of its existence in 2007.
But his influence went well beyond the photography business. He was personally responsible for the development two of most successful products in the history of Fisher-Price Toys: their childproof audiocassette recorder and phonograph, both introduced in the 1980s. He designed a number of important advanced products for the medical industry, and developed a variety of patented methods for improving manufacturing processes, saving manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of his career. He developed the first and only successful 3D consumer film camera, the first high-speed video camera for scientific motion analysis, and provided the mechanical design for the world’s first tablet computer. Overall, nearly 80 patents bear his name.
Throughout his life, Dean’s passions were fly-fishing and golf, and he invented advanced products for both. Perhaps his all-time favorite invention was the Morgan Reel™, a single-action fly reel featuring a unique, infinitely-variable drag mechanism which can never be damaged by sand or grit, superior ergonomics, and the ability to operate either with the characteristic “click” familiar in most fly reels or completely silently.
In spite of his professional accomplishments, Dean never considered himself in any way extraordinary. He was an Elder in the Presbyterian Church and played a key role in the creation of two start-up churches in Pittsford, New York and Littleton, Colorado. First and foremost, he was a devoted husband, father, brother and friend. His family and friends miss him very much indeed: his sense of humor, his work ethic, and his concern for his family and community.
Activities & Honors
Elder, Presbyterian Church
Fellow, Society of Photographic Scientists & Engineers
2000 Distinguished Alumnus Award, South Dakota Mines & Technology