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Inventor, 94, scoops European award

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Inventor, 94, scoops European award
Artur Fischer receiving the prize in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
15:30 CEST+02:00
The 94-year-old Artur Fischer, a lifelong inventor and creator of the plastic wall screw plug, was given the European Inventor Award on Tuesday. The prolific innovator with more than 1,100 patents to his name is our German of the Week.

Fischer, from Tumlingen in the south-western Black Forest region, was presented the award in Berlin in recognition of the "impressive life's work" shown by the more than 1,100 inventions registered under his name at the European Patent Office (EPO).

The award's organizers praised Fischer's "creative vision" and "tremendous entrepreneurial skill", highlighting his most successful creation, the Fischer-Dübel plug, the first mass-produced plastic wall screw plug, designed and patented by Fischer in 1958, which subsequently "revolutionized the construction industry".

Since then billions of the plugs have been produced and now around 14 million of them come out of Fischer factories daily, according to the EPO.

"I consider my work a gift from God. My whole life I have considered it a gift because to invent is a wonderful thing,” Fischer told the audience at the awards ceremony.

Among his other major inventions are a synchronized camera flash – Fischer's first ever patent, registered in 1949 – and Fischertechnik, a technical construction toy he designed in the early 60s.

Born in Tumlingen in 1919, Fischer left school to become a metalworker's apprentice in Stuttgart. Taken as a POW during World War II, the father-of-two returned home to found his first company, Fischer Appliances in 1948, producing firelighters and switches for weaving machines.

By the time Fischer released the "Dübel" wall plug in 1958, the Tumlingen factory employed 240 people. Today Fischer factories employ around 4,000 people worldwide and the corporation turns over €633 million a year.

But the founder said he was still recognized for bringing work to the small town over 50 years ago.

"It's still something people say to me when I meet them in the street. People haven't forgotten that one of them gave jobs to so many,” he said.

Family feuds

Fischer is married with two children, but the dynasty faced public controversy in 2007 with a court battle between Artur and his son Klaus (CEO of the Fischer company since 1980) and Artur's daughter Margot Fischer-Weber over allegedly slanderous statements made on her website.

Margot accused her father and brother of exploiting her loyalty to the family firm to deprive her of her inheritance.

She claimed they misled her into signing a legal document exchanging her share of the Fischer empire for a monthly allowance of €3,000 after Artur's death, while Klaus has since become one of Germany's 500 richest people according to Welt newspaper, inheriting the company's €300 million private fortune.

She claimed on her site she had once asked her brother if he saw her as his sister or his employee, to which he allegedly replied "my employee".

'I'm no tinkerer'

In an interview with Technology Review magazine on his 85th birthday back in 2004, Fischer said he disliked being called a "tinkerer" because the title glossed over the entrepreneurial skills of a true inventor.

"I am no tinkerer, and I'm vain enough to insist on the difference," he told the magazine. "A tinkerer invents things somehow by accident, or for his own use.

"Only an inventor thinks from the very beginning about marketing and distribution."

And he laughed off comments that he had not yet patented as many designs as famous American light-bulb creator Thomas Edison.

"But Edison is dead, and I'm alive," he said.

SEE ALSO: Ten great inventions you didn't know were German

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