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Introduction to the Biographies of Selected Innovators of Photographic Technology - Biographies of Selected Innovators of Photographic Technology from the 19th Century

photography process silver french

George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film

The marvelous nature of the tools, technology, and imagery of photography drives us to wonder after the individuals responsible for their creation. Something in photography appeals to the individualist. Every photographer is, in a way, a pioneer. Whatever initial instruction they receive, some aspects of photography can only be learned through highly personal and private experimentation. All photographers have certain primal experiences of discovery that provoke a sense of real contact with the pioneers of photography and give an understanding of the impetus for invention and innovation in photography.

The photographic technology of our day is the composite achievement of thousands of individuals working in many different disciplines over centuries. However, single individuals made contributions that had profound impact upon all of photography. It is easiest to discern such “heroes” of photography in its earlier history. Many historians have attempted to select the most important names from the host of amateurs and professionals who contributed significantly to photography in its first hundred years. All attempts have failed to be fair to every interest.

An interesting exercise for anyone deeply involved in photography would be to arbitrarily fix a number, say fifty, and make a list of the important contributors to photography. By what criteria can a balanced selection be made from the host of scientists, inventors, designers, mechanics, manufacturers, industrialists, photographers, historians, curators, collectors, critics, and publishers who have shaped photography? Within each category, fifty names could be listed without exhausting the possibilities for inclusion.

A perusal and comparison of the index of any history of photography will reveal the common occurrence of the names of Niépce, Daguerre, and Talbot. Much energy has been misdirected in the past to establishing which individual was the inventor of photography. There can be no common agreement on that issue. But everyone agrees that knowing the lives and works of these three pioneers is an indispensable part of understanding the history of photography. Beyond these three, however, much less agreement can be found. The selection that has been made for this edition is based upon what agreement is found in the most influential histories of photography in English. It excludes photographers who made purely pictorial achievements in favor of individuals that made important technical contributions that influenced the progress of photography in its formative era, since this publication primarily serves technical inquiry.

Josef Maria Eder’s History of Photography is the best source to consult for basic biographical information on photography’s great innovators. Eder’s history, first published in English in 1945 and, regrettably, now out of print, is unparalleled in scope and scholarship. Those more concerned with aesthetics and socio-cultural contributions will find in the classic histories of photography by Taft, Gernsheim, and Newhall, the biographies of the great “masters” of the art. Monographs for each of these individuals abound. Any number of valid histories could be written using an entirely different set of names than is found in all of the above works; so rich is the story and population of photography. The biographies included in this publication can only represent how individual achievements have contributed to the great technology that truly changed the culture of the world.

Biographies of Selected Innovators of Photographic Technology from the 19th Century

Editor’s Note : The following entries were originally published in the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography , Revised Desk Edition, 1969 or the 3rd Edition, 1993. The biographies were written by: Mary Street Alinder; Arthur Chevalier; R. Colson; H. Harting; J. C. Gregory; C. H. Oakden; M. von Rohr; and M. E. and K. R. Swan.

Abney, Sir William (1843–1920)

Sir William Abney was an English chemist, writer, and educator. He discovered hydroquinone as a developing agent (1880). Invented gelatin chloride printing-out paper (POP) in 1882. Developed infrared-sensitive emulsion to help chart the solar spectrum. Served as president of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain for five years, the first photographic authority to assume that position.

Archer, Frederick Scott (1813–1857)

Frederick Scott Archer was an English inventor and sculptor. Archer published the first working formula of the wet collodion process. He presented his discovery as a free gift to the world (March 1851). Archer’s collodion wet plate process superseded both the daguerreotype and calotype and was the primary process used by photographers for 30 years. He authored the Manual of the Collodion Photographic Process (1852), and invented the collodion positive on glass, and also introduced the stripping of collodion films, later used in much photomechanical work. However, since Archer had not patented the collodion process, he died unheralded and impoverished.

Bayard, Hippolyte (1801–1887)

Hippolyte Bayard was a French photographer and inventor. In early 1839, spurred on by reports of Daguerre’s achievement of positive images, but with little additional information, Bayard produced the first positive images directly in the camera. His independent discovery, almost simultaneous to the very dissimilar processes of Daguerre and Talbot, yielded unique paper photographs. Bayard intentionally created his photographs as art, often expressive in content. Thirty of his prints were the first publicly exhibited photographs on June 24, 1839, in Paris, hung amid work by Rembrandt and Canaletto. Bayard did not reveal the directions for his process until 1840 only to find a public already infatuated with the daguerreotype which was made public in August 1839. Bayard’s discovery was ignored. He was a founding member of the Société Héliographique (1851), and from 1866 to 1881 was the Honorary Secretary of the Société Franç Laise de Photographie.


Jammes, A. and Janis, E. P. (1983). The Art of the French Calotype . Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Becquerel, Alexandre-Edmond (1820–1891)

Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel was a French physicist who discovered in 1839 the photogalvanic effect, upon which a century later the first photoelectric light meters were based. He demonstrated in 1840 that an underexposed daguerreotype plate could be intensified by diffused supplementary exposure under red glass (the Becquerel effect). Becquerel was acknowledged as a founding father of color photography. He achieved natural color images on daguerreotype plates in 1848, although after years of experimentation he was never able to make them permanent.

Bennett, Charles Harper (1840–1927)

Charles Bennett was an English amateur photographer. In 1878 he published his method for increasing the photographic sensitivity of gelatin emulsions by prolonged heating at a temperature of 90°F.

Bertsch, Adolph (Dates Unknown)

Adolph Bertsch was a French microscopist and photographer. He introduced in 1860, the chamber noire automatique, a 4-inch-square metal box with frame viewfinder, spirit level, and fixed focus (automatic) lens of 3-inch focal length. The 2-1/4 inch square negative could be enlarged 10× in diameter with Bertsch’s megascope or solar enlarger. This was the forerunner of the modern system of a small camera producing negatives for enlargement at a period when enlarging was seldom practiced.

Blanquart-Evrard, Louis-Désiré (1802–1872)

Louis-Désiré Blanquart-Evrard was a French photographic publisher, inventor, and photographer. He invented albumen paper in 1850 and pioneered the archival processing of photographs. He founded one of the first photographic printing and publishing firms in 1851 at Lille. Blanquart-Evrard’s technique of developing-out prints instead of the slow business of printing them out speeded up the mass production of prints for sale, and enabled the publication of a large number of books and albums illustrated with original photographs. Photographs became commonly available during the 1850s largely due to his efforts.

Bogisch, A. (1857–1924)

A. Bogish was a German chemist who worked at the Hauff factory at Feuerbach near Stuttgart. In 1893 he discovered the new developers Metol, amidol, glycin, and ortol used to process gelatin emulsions.

Brewster, Sir David (1781–1868)

Sir David Brewster was a Scottish scientist and educator who studied optics, lenses, and polarized light. He invented the kaleidoscope in 1816. Brewster was appointed principal of the United Colleges of St. Salvator and St. Leonard, St. Andrews in 1838. He was a friend and advisor to Talbot, conducting an intense correspondence during the crucial years of Talbot’s development of his photographic process (1839–1843). Unhampered by Talbot’s English patent restrictions, Brewster shared his knowledge of the Talbotype (calo-type) with his countrymen where it enjoyed early and great popularity. He introduced D. O. Hill to R. Adamson (1843). Brewster’s discoveries allowed for the first practical stereoscope in 1851.

Carey-Lea, Matthew (1823–1897)

Matthew Carey-Lea was an American chemist who carried out many photo-chemical researches; advised the use of green glass for safelights in darkrooms and for the better preservation of sight. He introduced the mordant dye pictures in 1865, and investigated the latent image and the development process, especially ferrous oxalate developers from 1877 to 1880. Carey-Lea was a prolific contributor to photographic journals on both sides of the Atlantic and wrote a well-known Manual of Photography .

Chevalier, Charles Louis (1804–1859)

Charles Louis Chevalier was a French optician and camera obscura manufacturer. He made an apparatus for Niècpe and gave his address to Daguerre for whom he was also working. In 1839 he made lenses for the Daguerre-Giroux cameras. In 1840, he introduced the Photographe, a portable daguerreotype camera. He produced photomicrographs as early as March 1840. Chevalier was one of the earliest French photographic writers and dealers. There was a biography written about him by Arthur Chevalier (Paris 1862).

Claudet, Antoine Francois Jean (1797–1867)

Antoine Francois Jean Claudet was a French daguerreotypist and scientist. In 1827, he resided in London as a glass importer and was one of the first and last to practice the daguerreotype process. He established a supply house for daguerreotype materials in partnership with G. Houghton. Claudet was also an early professional photographer (he established the second photographic studio in London in 1841) and introduced painted backgrounds. Published in 1841, he proposed the acceleration process for the daguerreotype. He introduced red light into the darkroom and was one of the foremost photographic scientists of the early period. In 1851 he suggested the use of a series of photographs for the synthesis of motion in the Phenakistiscope.

Cros, Charles (1842–1888)

Charles Cros was a French doctor, poet, philologist, and painter. In 1881 he discovered the dye imbibition process and was a notable pioneer in the theory and practice of three-color photography (1869).

Daguerre, Louis-Jacques-Mandé (1787–1851)

Louis-Jacques-Mandé was the French inventor of the daguerreotype, the first commonly used photographic process. He also successfully designed theatrical sets and invented the diorama (1822). In 1829, he became partners with Niépce, who had been attempting for many years to permanently capture the image obtained in the camera obscura. Niépce died in 1833 and Daguerre continued the project based on Niépce’s work. In 1831, Daguerre had found that iodized silver-coated copper plates were light sensitive. His decisive discovery in 1835 was that those plates, after exposure in a camera obscura, developed a direct positive image when subjected to the fumes of mercury. In 1837, Daguerre was able to fix the image with a salt solution, and in 1839, he applied Herschel’s suggestion to use a solution of hyposulfite of soda (sodium thiosulfate). Dubbed “hypo,” it is still used today. The first official report of the daguerreotype was made by the French physicist Arago on January 7, 1839, to the French Academy of Sciences. The process was bought by the French government and was given “free to the world” on August 19, 1839, but had been patented in England and the United States five days earlier. The coming of the daguerreotype aroused keen interest worldwide and remained popular until the mid-1850s. It suffered from three grave defects—it produced only one, non-reproducible original; the image, though exquisitely detailed, was difficult to view due to its highly mirrored surface; and mercury fumes are highly toxic.


Buerger, J. E. (1989). French Daguerreotypes . Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Gernsheim, H. and Gernsheim, A. (1956). L. J. M. Daguerre . Cleveland and New York: World Publishing.

Newhall, B. (1967). Latent Image . New York: Doubleday.

Dallmeyer, John Henry (1830–1883)

John Henry Dallmeyer was an optician and lens manufacturer in London connected by employment and later by marriage to the Ross family. He produced portrait lenses based on Petzval’s design. In 1866 he patented the rectilinear lens which was very similar to Steinheil’s aplanat.

Dancer, John Benjamin (1812–1887)

John Benjamin Dancer was an English optician and micros-copist in Liverpool and later in Manchester. He made the first photomicrograph in England by the daguerreotype process in 1840 and was the first to make micrographs (by the collodion process) on microscopic slides. Dancer made the prototype of the binocular camera proposed by Sir David Brewster, which did not go into production until 1856.

Davy, Sir Humphry (1778–1829)

Sir Humphry Davy was an English chemist. Around 1802 his experimentations with Thomas Wedgewood led to the production of silhouettes and contact copies of leaves, etc., on white paper or leather moistened with silver nitrate and chloride solution, and under the microscope, but could not fix them. He discovered the electric arc light in 1813.

Draper, John William (1811–1882)

John William Draper was an American professor of chemistry and a great investigator in the field of scientific photography. He was a pioneer daguerreotypist associated with Samuel F. B. Morse. Draper discovered of the law of photochemical absorption, since known as the Draper-Grotthuss Law. He was probably also the first observer of the retrogression of the latent image in daguerreotypes. In 1840, he published the first paper on portrait photography and probably took the first successful ones. He produced the first daguerreotype photographs of the moon and of the spectrum (1840).


Scientific Memoirs (1878).

Driffield, Vero Charles (1847–1915)

Vero Charles Driffield was an English chemist who, with Ferdinand Hurter, originated the study of sensitometry. In 1890 they charted the H&D curve that traces the relationship between exposure and photographic density, determining the speed, or sensitivity, of the emulsion and enabling the computation of correct exposure times.

Ducos Du Hauron, Louis (1837–1920)

Louis Ducos Du Hauron was a French scientist and pioneer of color photography. In Les Couleurs en Photographie (1869) he described a three-color photographic process and formulated the principles of the additive and most of the subtractive methods of color reproduction. His research provided much of the foundation of color theory.

Eastman, George (1854–1932)

George Eastman was an American photographic inventor and manufacturer. His first products were gelatin dry plates for which he introduced machine coating in 1879. He invented the first roll film in 1884 using paper negatives and, in 1888, roll film on a transparent base, which is still the universal standard until the end of the 20th century. Eastman introduced
the “Kodak” in 1888 along with the first roll-film camera. The incredibly popular Kodak box camera encouraged millions of hobbyists worldwide to become photographers. The camera’s advertising slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest,” proved true to great success. As a direct consequence, the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, provided a dramatic, almost fantastic example of growth and development in industry, and it has founded and supported a unique chain of research laboratories. Eastman’s commercial manufacture of roll film provided the basic material for cinematography. Eastman introduced 16mm reversal film for amateur filmmaking (and the necessary camera and projector) in 1923 and developed various color photography processes to commercial application. Eastman died by his own hand—"My work is done—why wait?"


Collins, D. (1990). The Story of Kodak . New York: Abrams.

Eder, Josef Maria (1855–1944)

Josef Maria Eder was an Austrian photochemist, teacher, and photographic historian. He made outstanding contributions to photography, photographic chemistry, and photomechanical work so numerous that only a few highlights can be listed. In 1879 his thesis on The Chemical Action of Colored Light was published. In 1880 Eder became professor of chemistry at the Royal Technical School in Vienna. With Pizzighelli, he introduced gelatin-silver chloride paper in 1881. In 1884 he produced his encyclopedic Handbook of Photography on the science and technique of photography, which remained in print through many editions for 50 years. He was appointed director of Vienna’s highly regarded Graphic Arts Institute in 1889, a position he held for 34 years. Finally, among other books, there is his respected History of Photography , the last edition (German) of which appeared in 1932.

Fizeau, Hippolyte Louis (1819–1896)

Hippolyte Louis Fizeau was the French physicist who invented gold toning of daguerreotypes in 1840. He also invented a very successful process of etching daguerreotypes for mechanical printing in 1841. With Foucault in 1844 Fizeau studied the action of various light sources and of the spectrum on daguerreotype plates and found reciprocity law failures. He took the first pictures of the sun on daguerreotype (1845) with Foucault.

Foucault, Jean Bernard Léon (1819–1868)

Jean Bernard Léon Foucault was a French physicist who was one of the foremost photographic scientists in the first quarter century of photography. With Donne he constructed (1844) a projection microscope, and in 1849 (with Duboscq) an electric arc lamp. With Fizeau in 1844 he studied the effect of light on daguerreotype plates, and produced the first daguerreotype photograph of the sun in 1845. His collected works were edited by Gabriel and Bertrand (Paris 1878).

Fraunhofer, Joseph Von (1787–1826)

Joseph Von Fraunhofer was a German optician who, after an early struggle, became an assistant and later partner in important optical works. In 1814 he discovered a method of calculating a spherically and chromatically corrected objective. He also invented a machine for polishing large and mathematically accurate spherical surfaces. Between 1814 and 1817 he determined accurately the dark lines in the solar spectrum, since known by his name. He was the first to study diffraction with a grating and was responsible for producing high-quality optical glass.

Gaudin, Marc Antoine Augustine (1804–1880)

Marc Antoine Augustine Gaudin was a French photographer, optician, and scientist. He improved the daguerreotype process, and achieved the first instantaneous exposure in 1841. He also investigated the Becquerel effect (1841) and studied nitrated cellulose (1847) and silver halide collodion emulsions (1853, 1861). In 1853 Gaudin proposed potassium cyanide as fixing agent and gelatin and other substances as image binders. He described a collodion emulsion for negatives in 1861.

Goddard, John Frederick (1795–1866)

John Frederick Goddard was a Science Lecturer in London, England. He was employed by Beard and Wolcott to speed up the daguerreotype process by chemical means. Goddard published his successful application of bromine as an accelerating sensitizer on December 12, 1840. This shortened the exposure from about 15 minutes to approximately 2 minutes, thus constituting a major improvement in the daguerreotype process.

Herschel, Sir John Frederick William (1792–1871)

Sir John Frederick William Herschel was an English astronomer and pioneer photographic chemist. In 1819 he discovered thiosulfates and that their properties included the ability to completely dissolve silver salts. Upon learning in 1839 that both Talbot and Daguerre claimed to have discovered photography, he independently invented a silver chloride negative process on glass (1839). Herschel generously suggested to both men, and others, that they use sodium thiosulfate or “hypo,” as a photographic fixing agent. This proved to be important, since hypo more effectively eliminated unexposed silver salts than the common table salt then used. Though widely credited with coining the word photography , that was actually done by the Frenchman Hercules Florence in Brazil in 1834. He introduced the terms negative and positive as well as emulsion and snapshot . Herschel investigated the photochemical action of the solar spectrum, and discovered the different spectral sensitivities of the silver halides, chloride and bromide, and silver nitrate. He also described the light sensitivity of the citrates and tartrates of iron and of the double iron-ammonium citrates. He discovered the Herschel effect, the name given to the fading caused by infrared radiation falling on an exposed image, which has been the starting point for much modern research on the nature of the photographic latent image. Herschel invented the cyanotype, the first blueprint in 1842 and suggested microfilm documentation.


Newhall, B. (1967). Latent Image. (Letters 1842–1879) . New York: Doubleday.

Hunt, Robert 1807–1887.

Hurter, Ferdinand (1844–1898)

Ferdinand Hurter was a Swiss chemist who worked in an English chemical factory and was a colleague of V. C. Driffield. These two scientists and amateur photographers established the first reliable approach to accurate sensitometry, including the H&D curve, now known as the D-log H-curve. They published a full description of their apparatus and methods in 1890, and they were granted the Progress Medal by the Royal Photographic Society in 1898.

Ives, Frederic Eugene (1856–1937)

Frederic Eugene Ives was an American photographic inventor. Among his 70 U.S. patents are many concerning improvements in the halftone printing process, the most important
was the cross-line screen introduced in 1886. Also a pioneer in color photography, he invented a series of cameras, beginning in 1892, that produced a color image via three transparencies viewed all together with the assistance of a special viewer or projector. He performed basic research in the field of subtractive color during the 1920s that was essential to the development of Kodachrome film in 1935.

Lippmann, Gabriel (1845–1921)

Gabriel Lippmann was a French physicist and professor at the Sorbonne. In 1891 he originated the interference method of direct color photography that produced the first excellent and fixable color photographs, but the process was difficult to carry out and is now only practiced as a technical curiosity. Lippmann received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1908 for this invention. In 1908 he suggested lenticular film should be used for additive color photography and for the production of stereoscopic images.

Lumiére, Auguste (1862–1954) and Lumiére, Louis (1864–1948)

Auguste and Louis Lumiére were French scientists, filmmakers, and photographic manufacturers. Their father, Antoine, founded a photographic dry plate factory in Lyon in 1882. The two brothers continued the manufacture of dry plates and expanded to the production of roll films and printing papers in 1887. Together and separately, they carried out and published important scientific and technical work on a variety of photographic subjects. In 1904 they invented the first widely used color process, the autochrome. In 1895 they publicly demonstrated their cinematographe motion picture camera and projector, which used perforated, celluloid 35 mm film; the design continues to be used in nearly all modern filmmaking apparatus. They were acknowledged in that same year for making the first movie to be publicly exhibited.


Rosenblum, N. (1984). A World History of Photography . New York: Abbeville Press.

Maddox, Richard Leach (1816–1902)

Richard Leach Maddox was an English physician, inventor, and photographer. In 1871 he described the first workable dry plate process that unshackled photographers from their darkrooms. Maddox coated silver-bromide gelatin emulsion on glass plates that, with improvements by others such as the replacement of glass by celluloid in 1883, laid the foundation of the future film industry. He made his ideas public “to point the way,” without patenting this revolutionary process and spent his last years in straitened circumstances.

Maxwell, James Clerk (1831–1879)

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish physicist who established that light was an electromagnetic wave. He was the author of valuable investigations on color perception. In 1855 Maxwell began making some of the earliest color photographs. He formally demonstrated the fundamental basis of projected additive three-color photography in 1861.

Monckhoven, Desire Charles Emanuel Van (1834–1882)

Desire Charles Emanuel Van Monckhoven was a Belgian chemist and photographer who became one of the foremost photographic scientists of the 19th century. Working in Vienna from 1867 to 1870 he built a famous studio for the photographer Rabending where life-size solar enlargements were made. In 1878, he perfected the preparation of silver bromide gelatin emulsion in the presence of ammonia. In 1879, he improved the manufacture of dry plates and sold emulsion to dry plate factories. Later, in Belgium, he established a factory for pigment papers. He also worked on spectral analysis and astronomy and improved the solar enlarger to which he added artificial illumination. He wrote papers on photographic chemistry and optics.

Muybridge, Eadweard James (1830–1904)

Eadweard James Muybridge was an English photographer who journeyed to the United States in early 1850s. He gained fame with spectacular photographs of Yosemite from his trips in 1867 and in 1872, when he used 20 × 24 inch collodion mammoth glass plates to great effect. He was hired in 1872 by Leland Stanford to prove with photographs that at some time a galloping horse has all four feet off the ground. Muybridge successfully captured this circumstance in 1877 by assembling a string of cameras that made consecutive exposures at regular intervals. In 1879, he synthesized motion with his Zoogyro-scope, using drawings from serial photographs, producing the first animated movie. He published eleven volumes in 1887 containing 780 plates of the first serial photographs of humans and animals in motion. His work greatly influenced painters and stimulated other investigators in photographic analysis, synthesis of motion, and early cinematography.


Mosely, A. V. (ed.) (1972). Eadweard Muybridge—The Stanford Years, 1872–1882 . Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Naef, W. J. and Wood, J. N. (1975). Era of Exploration . Buffalo and New York: Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Niépce de St. Victor, Claude Felix Abel (1805–1870)

Niépce St. Victor was a French cavalry officer who invented the albumen-on-glass process in 1847. He modified the heliograph (bitumen process) of his uncle Nicéphore Niépce into a heliogravure photomechanical printing process on bitumen-coated steel plates, which gave good halftone prints (1855). Following Edmond Becquerel’s ideas, Niépce de St. Victor succeeded by in taking natural light color photographs (called heliochromy) on silver plates by the interference method (about 1860), but the colors were not stable.

Niépce, Joseph Nicéphore (1765–1833)

Niépce, Joseph Nicéphore (1765–1833) French inventor of photography, which he called heliography . In 1816, using a camera obscura, obtained negatives by the action of light on paper sensitized with silver chloride, but could not fix them. By 1822, he succeeded in making permanent images by coating glass, stone, or metal plates with asphaltum. After exposing it for many hours by direct contact with oiled engravings, they were washed with solvents to reveal the shadow portions that had not been hardened by light thus obtaining the first permanent photographic image. The earliest surviving photograph from nature, taken in a camera, dates probably from 1826 and is now in the Gernsheim Collection at the University of Texas, Austin. Niépce was the first to use an iris diaphragm and bellows in his cameras. In 1829, substituting silvered metal plates for pewter, he found he could darken shadows (bare silver) by iodine fumes. He described that in detail in his supplement to the partnership agreement that he concluded with Daguerre in 1829, and doubtless contributed to Daguerre’s discovery of the light sensitivity of iodized silver plates in 1831. Niépce died in 1833, leaving the completion of his work to Daguerre.


Buerger, Janet E. (1989). French Daguerreotypes . Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Gernsheim, Helmut (1982). The Origins of Photography . London and New York: Thames & Hudson.

Jay, Paul (1988). Niépce, Genesis of an Invention . Chalon-sur-Saone, France: Society des Amis du Musee Nicephore Niépce.

Newhall, Beaumont (1967). Latent Image . New York: Doubleday.

Marignier, J. L. (1999). Niépce, L’invention De La Photography , Paris, Editions Berlin.

Obernetter, Johann Baptist (1840–1887)

Johann Baptist Obernetter was a German photographer and photographic manufacturer. In 1868 he introduced commercially the collodion silver chloride of G. W. Simpson under the name of Aristotypie. He also invented (ca. 1886) a photogravure process on copper plates called Lichtkupferdruck. Obernetter introduced (ca. 1870) a collotype process similar to Josef Albert. In the 1880s his firm made good orthochromatic dry plates.

Ostwald, Wilhelm (1853–1932)

Wilhelm Ostwald was a German professor of physical chemistry at Leipzig University for 20 years and established his independent laboratory nearby in 1907. He received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1909. Between 1892 and 1900, Ostwald proposed theories on the chemical development of the latent image and on the ripening and growth of the grains in an emulsion. In 1914, he introduced a new theory of color and published his Color Atlas . In this publication he described the Ostwald System of color tabulation that added varying proportions of black and white to pure hues.

Petzval, Josef Max (1807–1891)

Josef Max Petzval was a Hungarian mathematician who, in 1840, invented the first purposely designed photographic lens, which reduced exposure time by 90 percent. This allowed the rapid development of the daguerreotype’s use for portraiture. Manufactured by Voigtländer and later copied by others, the Petzval lens marked a great advance from previous lenses and was widely used for half a century.

Poitevin, Alphonse Louis (1819–1882)

Alphonse Louis Poitevin was a French engineer, chemist, and photographic inventor. He investigated galvanography (1847), engraving of daguerreotype, photography with iron salts, photolithography, photo-ceramics, and the reaction of chro-mates with organic substances (e.g., glue). In 1855 he laid the foundations of both collotype and pigment printing (carbon and gum printing) and also produced direct photolithographs in halftone on grained stone coated with bichromated albumen.

Ponton, Mungo (1801–1880)

Mungo Ponton was a Scottish photographic inventor and the secretary of the National Bank of Scotland. In 1839, while experimenting with making photogenic drawings with silver chromates, he discovered that paper impregnated with potassium bichromate was sensitive to light. This was of fundamental importance for most photomechanical processes. Ponton used this photographic paper to record thermometer readings in 1845.

Reade, Rev. Joseph Bancroft (1810–1870)

Joseph Bancroft Reade was an English clergyman, microscopist, astronomer, and pioneer in photography. Early in 1839 he made photomicrographs in the solar microscope on silver chloride paper, which was moistened with an infusion of gall nuts (e.g., gallic acid) thereby using tannin as an accelerator. He was the first to use hypo as a fixing salt for photography (1839). He made camera photographs in 1839.

Regnault, Henry Victor (1810–1878)

Henry Victor Regnault was a French scientist and professor at the Collège de France. He was the President of the Sociètè Francaise de Photographie from 1855 to 1868. He proposed (simultaneously with Liebig) pyrogallic acid as a developer in 1851. He also worked on the carbon process and described in 1856 an actinometer using silver chloride paper.

Sabattier, Aramand (1834–1910)

Aramand Sabattier was a French doctor and scientist. In 1862 he described the “pseudo-solarization reversal,” a negative image on a wet collodion plate changed to a positive when daylight fell on the plate during development. This Sabattier effect was exploited for making a positive of a reversal, a second exposure, and development after the first exposure and developing.

Scheele, Carl Wilhelm (1742–1786)

Carl Wilhelm Scheele was a Swedish chemist who built on Johann Schultze’s discovery of the light sensitivity of silver compounds. In 1777 Scheele determined that the silver in silver chloride would turn black when exposed to light and that the unexposed silver chloride could be washed away with ammonia. He also found that silver chloride blackened more quickly in the violet end of the spectrum than in other colors and deduced the existence of the unseen radiation band that we call ultraviolet rays. Among his many other significant discoveries, he is credited with first identifying elemental oxygen, before Joseph Priestly.

Schulze, Johann Heinrich (1687–1744)

Johann Heinrich Schulze was a German chemist who, in 1725, made the landmark discovery that light darkens silver nitrate, which proved that heat did not have this effect. Photography was eventually built upon Schulze’s discovery.

Seebeck, Johann Thomas (1770–1831)

Johann Thomas Seebeck was a German physicist who, in 1810, investigated the photochromy of silver chloride; when this was exposed to white light and then to the spectrum colors, the spectrum reproduced itself on the silver chloride in its own natural colors. This interference process was one of the few direct processes of photography in natural color, but it took 80 years and the work of many inventors before a practical process of giving a permanent image was evolved by Gabriel Lippmann.

Simpson, George Warton (1825–1880)

George Warton Simpson was a English photographer and editor of the Photographic News and the Year Book of Photography (1860–1880). He did valuable work on development (1861); collodion silver emulsions for printing-out papers (1864–1865), which formed the basis for the manufacture of Celloidin paper by Obernetter (1868); on the “photochromy” of collodion silver chloride papers (1866); and on Swan’s pigment print (carbon) process.

Steinheil, Carl August Von (1801–1870) and Steinheil, Hugo Adolph (1832–1893)

Carl August Von Steinheil was a German astronomer and professor of physics and mathematics at Munich University. Shortly after learning of Talbot’s calotype process in early 1839, then Daguerre’s process in August 1839, he produced the first calotypes and daguerreotypes in Germany by using cameras he designed. In December 1839, he made the first miniature camera, which produced pictures that had to be viewed through a magnifying glass. In 1855 Steinheil founded the Munich optical company that still bears his name and that was purchased by his son, Hugo, in 1866. The younger Steinheil was a noted designer and manufacturer of fine photographic lenses.

Sutton, Thomas (1819–1875)

Thomas Sutton was an English photographer, inventor, editor, and publisher. Encouraged by Prince Albert and partnered by Blanquart-Evrard, he established a photographic printing works in Jersey (1855). He founded and edited the periodical, Photographic Notes (1856–1867). He invented a fluid globe lens in 1859, which he used in his panoramic camera in 1861. Sutton patented the first reflex camera in 1861 and published the first Dictionary of Photography in English in 1858.

Swan, Sir Joseph Wilson (1828–1914)

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was an English inventor, chemist, and photographic manufacturer. He perfected the carbon process for printing photographs in permanent pigment in 1864 (introduced in 1866) and applied it to a mechanical form of carbon printing from an electrotyped copper moldphotomezzotint in 1865. He discovered the ripening process by heat in gelatin emulsion in 1887 when his firm, Mawson & Swan in Newcastle, began producing commercial gelatin plates. He patented the first automatic plate coating machine in Britain in 1879. At the same time, he started the manufacturing of gelatin bromide paper. He greatly advanced halftone printing with lined screen turned halfway through the exposure in 1879. Swan took out over 60 patents; his best known invention was the carbon filament electric light bulb in 1881.

Talbot, William Henry Fox (1800–1877)

William Henry Fox Talbot was an English inventor of photography. He originated the negative-positive process that enabled the production of multiple prints from one negative, which continues to be the basis for photography as it is practiced today. Frustrated while drawing with the aid of the camera with silver halide photography lucida, in 1834 he experimented with the fixing of images by chemical means. He investigated the action of light on paper treated with silver salts, making successful photograms, which he called photogenic drawings, of such subjects as lace and leaves. In 1835, using a small, homemade camera, he produced a 1-inch square negative image of a latticed window in his home, Lacock Abbey, but did not make a positive print from a negative until 1839.

A scholar of many pursuits, Talbot left his experiments in photography, only to return when told of Daguerre’s invention in January 1939. Disturbed that he would not receive due credit, Talbot’s process was described to the Royal Society in London on January 31, 1839.

He greatly increased the stability of his prints in 1839 by using Herschel’s suggested fixer, sodium thiosulfate. Exposure times for Talbot’s photogenic drawings were extremely long, but were dramatically shortened with his improved calotype process (also called Talbotype) in 1840, which he patented in 1841. The calotype relied on paper treated with silver iodide and washed with gallic acid and silver nitrate. When exposed in a camera, the paper produced an unseen, latent image that could then be successfully developed in the same solution of gallic acid and silver nitrate outside the camera.

Talbot began the first printing company for the mass production of photographs in 1843, and published his own book The Pencil of Nature in 1844, the first book illustrated with photographs. In 1852, he patented a photoengraving process, and in 1858 he patented an improved process that produced fairly good halftone reproductions.


Jammes, A. (1973). William H. Fox Talbot—Inventor of the Negative-Positive Process . New York: Collier.

Newhall, B. (1967). Latent Image—The Discovery of Photography . Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Talbot, W. H. F. (1969, 1989). The Pencil of Nature . Facsimiles, New York: Da Capa Press and New York: H. P. Kraus.

Vogel, Hermann Wilhelm (1834–1898)

Hermann Wilhelm Vogel was a German chemist and teacher who became the first professor of photography at the Institute of Technology, Berlin, in 1864. He founded several photographic societies and an important periodical, Photographische Mitteilungen also in 1864. His Handbook of Photography , first published in 1867, was one of the most important textbooks of the late 19th century. In 1837 Vogel discovered that the selective addition of dyes to collodion plates increased their sensitivity to include the green portion of the spectrum. Along with Johann Obernetter he invented the orthochromatic gelatin silver dry plate in 1884, which was sensitive to all colors except deep orange and red. An influential teacher, his students included Alfred Stieglitz in 1881.

Voigtländer, Peter Wilhelm Friedrich (1812–1878)

Peter Voigtländer was an Austrian optical manufacturer who, in 1849, established a new branch of the family firm originally founded in 1756 in Vienna at Brusnwick. From 1841 his firm manufactured the famous portrait and landscape lens calculated by Petzval in 1840. Also in 1841, he produced the first metal daguerreotype camera.

Warnerke, Leon (Vladislav Malakhovskii) (1837–1900)

Leon Warnerke was a Russian civil engineer. In 1870 he established a private photographic laboratory in London. He lived in both London and St. Petersburg and established a photographic factory in Russia. He invented the Warnerke sensitometer, which was the first serviceable device for measuring speed (1880). He used this device during investigations on the silver bromide collodion stripping paper. He manufactured silver chloride gelatin papers starting in 1889. He was awarded the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in 1882.

Wedgwood, Thomas (1771–1805)

Thomas Wedgwood was an English scientist. Son of the famous potter, Josiah Wedgwood, he produced images made by the direct action of light (photograms, e.g., silhouettes and botanical specimens) on paper or leather moistened with silver nitrate solution and silver chloride. In 1802 he published, with Sir Humphry Davy, an account of a method for copying paintings upon glass and of making profiles by the agency of light upon nitrate of silver. But he and Davy were not able to fix their images, which could only be viewed for a few minutes by candlelight.


Gernsheim, H. (1982). The Origins of Photography . New York: Thames & Hudson.

Wheatstone, Sir Charles (1802–1875)

Sir Charles Wheatstone was an English scientist who invented the stereoscope. He experimented with this device from 1832 to 1838, publishing his results in 1838. Wheatstone invented the concertina (1829).

Willis, William (1841–1923)

William Willis was an English engineer, bank employee, and photographer. He patented the Platinotype process in 1873 and founded the Platinotype Company, which manufactured platinum development papers from 1878 onward. He later worked out the Satista (silver-platinum) and the Pallidiotype papers. He was awarded the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in 1881.

Wolcott, Alexander (1804–1844)

Alexander Wolcott was an American instrument maker and daguerreotypist. He designed and patented a camera without a lens in which the light entered to be reflected by a concave mirror onto the plate (that was turned away from the subject). On October 7, 1839, he probably took the first successful portrait ever made. In March 1840 he opened the world’s first portrait studio in New York.

Woodbury, Walter Bentley (1834–1885)

Walter Woodbury was an English professional photographer. In 1864 he invented the Woodbury process for printing with pigmented gelatin from lead molds obtained from chromated gelatin reliefs. The process was widely used as it produced prints with halftones and high definition and without any grain or screen. It was superseded in the late 1880s by the collotype process and other processes whose prints did not need trimming and mounting. He invented the stannotype in 1879. Woodbury also worked on balloon photography, on rotary printing, and on stereo projection. He received the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in 1883 for his stannotype process, a simplified variant of the Woodburytype.

Wratten, Frederick Charles Luther (1840–1926)

Frederick Wratten was an English inventor and manufacturer. In 1878 he founded one of the earliest photographic supply businesses, Wratten and Wainwright, which produced and sold collodion glass plates and gelatin dry plates. He invented, in 1878, the “noodling” of silver-bromide gelatin emulsions before washing. With the assistance of Mees, he produced the first panchromatic plates in England in 1906 and became a famous manufacturer of photographic filters. Eastman Kodak purchased the company in 1912 as a condition of hiring Mees.


Mees, E. C. K. (1961). From Dry Plates to Ektachrome Film . New York: Ziff-Davis.

Zeiss, Carl (1816–1888)

Carl Zeiss was a German lens manufacturer who founded the Zeiss optical firm in 1846. With collaborators Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott, he devised the manufacture of Jena glass, the finest optical quality glass. Zeiss became famous for its excellently designed microscopes, binoculars, optical instruments, and cameras. Zeiss photographic lenses became the standard in the field. Chief lens designer, Paul Rudolph, produced the first anastigmat (1890) and the still-popular Tessar (1902).

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