It's The People...

Dr. Benno Hesske

It was Walter Bitterlich who had the idea for the relascope design, but it was Benno Hesske who made it a worldwide success when they became friends and commercial partners. Benno Hesske never studied forestry, but he knows more about relascope technique than most foresters. He always had an imaginative approach to solving the engineering and technical problems which Bitterlich posed.

Benno Hesske was born in 1920 in Salzburg, Austria and attended school there. After high school he entered the army and served in the mountain troops in Norway, then in Tunisia where he was taken prisoner in 1943. He was a POW in Colorado and was repatriated in 1945. At the end of the war he was back in Salzburg again to join his wife, and saw his young daughter for the first time. He found work with the US Army because he spoke English well.

He studied law in his spare time and received his degree in 1949. Two sons were born by 1948 when he joined a small company called Optimar, which manufactured optical articles like cameras, projectors, etc. It was at this time when Bitterlich was looking all over Austria for someone willing to invest time and money developing his relascope.

The company was short on funds, but Hesske as the manager was optimistic, and the first instruments were produced in a small series. In 1960 they both attended the 5th World Forestry Congress in Seattle, where Benno had his first introduction to North American Foresters.

Since that time the two of them have traveled all over the world, presenting papers and demonstrating instruments at conferences and visiting every World Forestry Congress since 1960. Benno’s wife Lilli often accompanied him on his travels until her death a few years ago. It was in Buenos Aires, in 1972 that they presented the tele-relascope to the forestry world – one of the few high precision upper-stem measuring devices.

In 1962 Hesske and his wife founded their own company, "FOB" which produces the relascope line of products and accessories, as well as a number of other optical products. The company is actually a member of IUFRO, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, and is continuously doing research and development on new ideas for forest measurement. Dr. Bitterlich, now 86 years old, is still a very active inventor and is constantly presenting new ideas and approaches. Where possible, FOB attempts to develop these ideas.

Benno Hesske has traveled very widely during his association with the relascope and the forestry community. He continues to make new friends, and many of them have visited him, his family and his company in Salzburg. He says: "They are always welcome!   ".

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Originally Published October 1994