Between Ginkgo, Gauss and Goethe
The room is flooded with light. The sun plays on the glass showcases and catches the light just like the leaves of the trees. When you enter the Helmut Fischer Museum, you feel as if you could still be in the garden just outside the window: visitors are welcomed with the sounds of nature and birdsong.
From chaos to order
This closeness to nature strikes one as unusual for a technical museum. In biology, many things are chaotic: each leaf of the ginkgo tree has its own unique shape; no bird egg is the same size as any other. Technology, however, always strives for the highest order: every screw should look just like the next, every device deliver the same results.
Nevertheless, Helmut Fischer, an enthusiastic hobby botanist, has always found inspiration in nature for his work. Whether we consider the weight of a seed or the thickness of a coat of paint – there are always fluctuations. A single measuring point cannot completely represent reality. It is only through statistics that the measured values present an image of the greater whole.
The basis for modern statistics was laid down by the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. He described the standard distribution, which is still used today in science and technology. Studying the works of Gauss made a long-lasting impact on Fischer. Since 1984, Fischer devices have been equipped with powerful analysis software to ensure that simple measured values produce reliable and correct results.
The exhibits lead visitors chronologically through the company's history. The oldest instrument in the museum bears the serial number ‘01’ and dates from 1953
From improvisation to perfection
One person who encouraged Fischer to look into the works of Gauss, and who exerted his own formative effect on the young man, was his physics teacher, Mr. Schuhmann. Together they founded Fischer’s first company in Stuttgart in 1953. Quickly recognizing the needs of a burgeoning post-war industry, 22-year-old Fischer developed a device for measuring lacquer and chrome coatings – the Permaskop – and won over Bosch and Daimler as some of his first customers.
In post-war Germany, though, many materials were still hard to find: often, one simply had to improvise. From a common nail, Helmut Fischer built a sensor that could measure coatings less than 5 μm thick! This boldness was rewarded as just a year later, in 1954, the company booked some DM 40,000 in sales.
Then as now, quality was always Fischer’s top priority. Each and every device was individually calibrated: dozens of standards were measured and the corresponding values marked in ink on the dial. This resulted in an individual scale for each instrument that was as precise as any modern calibration curve. Helmut Fischer and his first X-ray fluorescence device. In 1983, the company revolutionized the practice of coating thickness measurement with these instruments
From yesterday to tomorrow
For Helmut Fischer, it was important to build equipment that would last for many years – and the same goes for the company itself. Five decades later, he transferred his company shares to a foundation, ensuring the purpose-bound and charitable continuation of his work.
"While the Helmut Fischer Foundation can be seen as the culmination of a life's work, in truth it is a gift to future generations. Helmut Fischer, Founder of Helmut Fischer GmbH"
As versatile as Helmut Fischer the person is, so is his foundation: in addition to endowing professorships, it also has the mandate to support culture, because Helmut Fischer is an enthusiastic collector of literature as well. In 2009, he entrusted to the Deutsches Museum in Munich a library of historical books that he had assembled over the years with love and expertise. Besides original editions of works by Newton and Einstein, the 5000 volumes also include artistically illustrated versions of Goethe's Faust.
But one of the most important goals of the Helmut Fischer Foundation is the sponsorship of young scientists. That is why interested young researchers and students are always welcome guests at the Helmut Fischer Museum in the Sindelfingen headquarters.
The future belongs to automated measurement systems. Used in conjunction with robots, Fischer's precise measurement technology can improve the coating while saving material costs