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Former Diplomat Sol Linowitz, 91, Dies

Mr. Linowitz recalled the initial Columbus trip in his memoir, The Making of a Public Man (Little Brown & Co., 1985): "With some fanfare, our hosts at Battelle brought out a metal roller coated with some dark substance, a rag of cat's fur, a transparent plastic child's ruler with dark lines scratched in it, and a bright light. They rubbed the roller with the cat's fur. Then they shined the light through the ruler onto the roller, and some feeble off-white lines appeared on the dark surface."

He later recalled that "it was the most unimpressive demonstration I've ever witnessed."

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"Sol was not a technical genius," Bob Linowes recalled, "and I don't think he quite mastered what xerography was all about. But he could acquire the patents the company needed, and Joe Wilson had complete trust and faith in him."

In 1959, the company produced the first copy machine made available for the commercial market.

"Our revenues at what was then still called Haloid-Xerox absolutely exploded," Mr. Linowitz recalled. "In a very short span of time, we made the transition from a modest Rochester company to a major international corporation with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

From such humble beginnings, Wilson's company -- with Linowitz as general counsel and then as chairman of the board -- became Xerox. By 1966, "our little company had become one of the 12 largest in the United States in terms of the market value of its stock," Mr. Linowitz wrote. The figure was $4.5 billion.

According to David Owen, whose book "Copies in Seconds" traces the history of the Xerox machine, the effect on human communication of xerographic copiers is comparable to that of Gutenberg's printing press. "It has given ordinary people a simple means of reproducing and sharing printed information, and, by doing so, it has reduced the ability of the strong to keep secrets from the weak. (Without photocopying, there could have been no Pentagon Papers, for example.)"

In October 1966, Mr. Linowitz left Xerox to accept President Lyndon Johnson's joint appointment as U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States and United States representative on the Inter-American Committee of the Alliance for Progress.

He returned to private practice during the Nixon administration, remaining in Washington as a senior partner in the international law firm of Coudert Brothers from 1969 to 1983. (He was senior counsel until 1994). He was still active in numerous civic and national causes, including the National Urban Coalition, the Federal City Council and the Commission on United States-Latin American Relations.

Earlier, there had been talk among New York Democrats about drafting him to run for governor against Nelson Rockefeller. Others questioned whether he was mean enough.

In the New York Times profile, Mayer put it this way: "As an advocate, Linowitz specialized in the politesse of the courts of appeals; as a counselor, he was engaged in the impersonalities of long-range planning. As a liberal Democrat functioning in a highly conservative business community, he developed the habit of saying mostly what his interlocutors would like him to say, and inserting, with minimum discomfort, the needle of disagreement."

Those diplomatic skills were invaluable once he plunged into the Panama Canal negotiations.

"He [Linowitz] felt very strongly about it," Linowes recalled. "He had a very deep feeling for Latin Americans in general and the way they had been treated and the way they had been dealt with by our government. He also worked very well with Ellsworth Bunker."

The president wanted a treaty acceptable to the Panamanians, a treaty that fully protected U.S. interests and one that the Senate could ratify.

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