Dr.Kurt Jacobson receiving the
"Queen's Award to Industry" in 1970.
Picture by courtesy of Dr Ralph Jacobson.

The following text is taken from a July 1985 document produced by Durst (UK) Ltd. It has been made available to me (November 2009) by Dr Jacobson's son, Dr Ralph Jacobson, Emeritus Professor of Imaging Science at the University of Westminster. Also, Chief Editor of The Imaging Science Journal published by Maney for The Royal Photographic Society.

Dr. K. I. JACOBSON and the history of DURST (UK) Ltd.

Dr. KURT JACOBSON was born in 1906 in Berlin. He attended Charlottenburg Technical University and Heidelburg University where he was awarded a Doctorate in 1930. Aged 24 he founded the Photographic Industry Laboratory in Berlin.

He became editor of 'Die Photographische Industrie', the leading German industry magazine, chairman of the German Photographic Society and a member of the German Photographic Standards Committee, a research and consulting organisation used by many of the top photographic manufacturers, both in Europe and the United States.

He was one of the world's leading authorities on photography and between 1922 and 1965 was responsible for around 30 major publications in journals, mainly in the field of emulsion chemistry and colour technology.

He wrote 6 books including, the best known being 'ENLARGING' published in 1939 which now (1985) has gone through 22 editions, 'DEVELOPING' published in 1940 now (1985) in its 23rd edition and 'IMAGING SYSTEMS' written in collaboration with his son Dr. Ralph Jacobson, who also worked for his father's company and is now (1985) Senior Lecturer in Photographic Science and Technology at the Polytechnic of Central London.

In 1939, Dr Kurt Jacobson emigrated to England and lived in London. When his operation there was bombed, he moved to Epsom and became associated with Dr.G.N White who operated the Goodwin White Chemical Research Laboratory in Epsom, which provided a consultancy service to the photographic industry, similar to that run by Dr. Jacobson in Germany.

In addition, the partnership produced specialised organic chemicals for photographic manufacturers in the UK and abroad and was the first to provide organic restrainers and anti-foggants during the Second World War.

Immediately after the war, Dr. Jacobson set up a motion picture film processing laboratory in Redhill to process "two colour" prints of American feature films for the film industry. With the rapid decline of such processes in the early 1950s in favour of "three colour" negative-positive systems, Dr. Jacobson decided to enter this field with financial help from Associated British-Pathe. This work resulted in the production and marketing of a colour negative film and a colour paper for amateur use under the name of Pakolor, in 1953. At this time there was no other British manufacturer of these products and this was seen as an important development in the industry.

The coating of the film and paper was sub-contracted
(the film was coated by Standard Photographics of Leamington, while the paper was produced by Kentmere at Staveley in the Lake District) but the essential colour synthesizers and colour couplers were produced by the Epsom laboratory.

Having resolved the difficult problem of manufacturing colour materials Dr. Jacobson and Dr. White turned their attention to the use of their products.

The company started a (colour) developing and printing (D&P) service which proved very popular, but their use of converted black and white equipment was slow, wasteful, and unreliable, and so the volume of work very quickly overwhelmed them. With mail bags full of films remaining unopened for weeks, the partnership was forced into designing the necessary (colour developing and printing) machines for themselves.

They first made a paper processor which relieved them of the arduous task of processing the finished print, but the task of acquiring the correct (colour negative) filtration and exposure, and then printing each negative frame, led them to design a 'grader' to make the necessary assessment and an enprint enlarger to make the exposure. These steps improved the work flow through the laboratory considerably and with the increasing widespread popularity of the colour negative-positive process, the machines were in demand by other manufacturers and laboratories and so the company started the manufacture of Pakolor equipment.

Improvements in the design of the machines increased the speed and quality of the prints produced by them and they were also adapted to meet the specific needs of the users. As the sales of the printers and processors outgrew that of film and paper, a new company was formed called Fotocolor Automation Limited and the equipment was sold under the trade name of Colortron. A September 1965 advert for the Colotron '99' colour enlarger can be seen below.

By the mid-1960's Dr. Jacobson's range of equipment was far ahead of the competition in that it provided the smaller D&P colour laboratories for both amateur and professional with low cost equipment exactly tailored to their needs and thereby enabling them to compete in a market that would otherwise have been dominated by the larger concerns that could afford to equip with other, more expensive, machines (see the Kodak S1, here)

An excellent export market also opened up, with two of the principal customers being Japan and the USA. This success resulted in the company receiving the "Queen's Award to Industry" in 1970 (see picture, top of page).

During this period further capital had been put into the company by Leo and Sy (Simon) Pavelle who had previously owned Pavelle Color in New York, the largest independent laboratory in the USA. This permitted the expansion of the company and the move to new factory premises on the Longmead Industrial Estate at Epsom when the company name changed to Pavelle Ltd.

Dr. Jacobson's research into sensitised materials continued and in 1970 he perfected a 2-bath rapid access colour paper that was to be marketed as Rapac. A coating plant was built by the Pavelle Corporation in New Jersey USA and to finance this the machine manufacturing company of Pavelle Ltd was sold to Durst AG of Italy in 1971 and took the name of Durst (UK) Ltd.

The company which was founded in the early 1950's in a few sheds in Church Road, Epsom, moved to a new factory with 10,000sq.ft (930m2) of floor area on the Longmead Industrial Estate on the other side of Epsom in 1965. This building was greatly extended in 1967, almost trebling the original floor area to 29,000sq.ft (2,700m2). In 1969 a second factory of 13,000sq.ft (1,200m2) was leased and in 1980 the present (1985) production factory was built, giving a total floor area of just over 71,000 sq.ft (6,600m2).

Over this period, the staff increased from 2 to 260 and products were sold to 125 countries.

Dr. Jacobson retired as Chairman of the Board in 1972. He died in 1983 and is remembered as an inventive and energetic researcher. He was a highly regarded scientist who played an important part in the development of the photographic industry throughout the world.


The Colortron Mini-Printer advertisement, above, has been sent to me by Paul Godfrey.

Paul Godfery comments: "...I worked for J.Barker & Sons who had bought out C.A.Chadwick Limited a photofinishing works based in Great Yarmouth. Chadwicks had mainly Kodak colour equipment but had purchased a Colortron Mini-Printer to do enlargements. These printers were very low in cost and covered a wide range of negative sizes, 6x9cm – 35mm and print sizes 3½", 5" & 8" wide. The original Mini-Printer had a tungsten lamp and condenser illumination. It was a three exposure additive printer of a very simple but very effective design. It only needed a single photomultiplier cell measuring the light that came through the lens. As you can see it was an enlarger in a box but this is too simple a description for a printer that revolutionised professional wedding and social photography.

In the mid 1970s I worked for the Lowestoft photographer Peter Jenkins. The Jenkins were a photographic dynasty and Peter’s grandfather Harry started the business that was taken over by Peter’s father Ford Jenkins. Peter had a Durst Mini-Printer that was a vast improvement over the earlier Colortron one".

This page last modified: 9th November 2009