In the late 1920’s, Dr. Gerhard Fisher, a German immigrant who studied electronics at the University of Dresden, obtained the first patent ever issued on aircraft radio direction finders. He was working as a Research Engineer in Los Angeles, California at the time and his work attracted the interest of Dr. Albert Einstein. After a demonstration of Dr. Fisher’s equipment, Einstein enthusiastically and correctly predicted the world-wide use of radio direction finders in the air, on land and at sea.
When using such direction finders during those early years, aircraft pilots found that errors would occur in their bearings when metal objects came between the transmitter and receiver, or whenever they passed over certain areas. Different pilots flying different planes always observed the same errors over the same places. When Dr. Fisher investigated this phenomenon, he found these errors to be the result of highly conductive, mineralized areas. Dr. Fisher concluded that a portable electronic prospecting instrument could be developed that used the same principle to detect the presence of small buried objects and ore deposits.
He continued his research into this phenomenon, and in 1931 he founded Fisher Research Laboratory in a garage behind his home at 1505 Byron St. in Palo Alto, California. He and four employees began producing the "Metallascope," starting each unit as a new order came in. The "Metallascope" was a rugged, easy-to-use metal detector. By today’s standards, it was perhaps an ungainly device: two large, flat wooden boxes containing simple copper coils, five vacuum tubes, and a few assorted components. It soon captivated the imagination of the country, and within a short time, the world.
USS MACON CRITICAL TOOL FOR DR. FISHER Around 1933, the U.S. Navy hired Dr. Fisher to install a radio direction finder aboard the dirigible, the USS Macon. It was aboard the Macon that Dr. Fisher discovered that large metal buildings and mineralized mountains cancelled out the instrument’s direction finding capabilties leading him to the discovery of the first metal detector. Dirigibles served the U.S. Navy as floating bases for scout planes during the 1930’s, but the program was eventually abandoned. It became obvious that the highly touted U.S. Navy lighter-than-air program had a fatal flaw: dirigibles had a tendency to crash during severe weather.
By 1936, sales had increased to the point where the garage was no longer large enough. Fisher Research Laboratory moved to a small building at 745 Emerson St. in Palo Alto. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Fisher was granted a patent for his "Metallascope." The "Metallascope" was soon nicknamed the M-Scope, and as such, became an accepted standard for all types of electronic metal detection: geologists located ore, treasure hunters found treasure, utility companies located buried pipes, lumber mills located metal inclusions in sawn logs, and law enforcement agencies used it to locate abandoned or hidden weapons.
In 1939, just prior to World War II, Fisher moved to an even larger building at 1961 University Ave. in Palo Alto. During World War II and the subsequent Korean Conflict, the company was called upon to contribute its technical competence to the war effort, but the M-Scope business was never neglected. With the increasing popularity of the M-Scope, and with Fisher’s patent rights expiring, numerous competitors began producing similar equipment. Due to relentless efforts to incorporate every available technical advancement - and in particular, by keeping close contact with countless users to utilize their vast fund of field experience in the design of new models - Fisher maintained its position of solid leadership. Over the years, Fisher has designed and produced such sophisticated products as geiger counters, radio communication systems, voltage detectors and cable fault locators.
In 1961, Fisher moved to an even larger production facility in Belmont, California. In 1967, Dr. Fisher retired, having firmly established his name in the annals of electronic history. The company continued to grow, and in 1974, Fisher Research Laboratory moved 90 miles southeast to Los Banos, California. In 1990, Fisher built a spacious, modern manufacturing plant in the Los Banos Industrial Park, where the world's oldest metal detector business resided until it was acquired by First Texas Products in 2006.