Happy birthday Louis Daguerre!

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Louis Daguerre (November 18, 1787—July 10, 1851) was a French inventor. He invented the daguerreotype, arguably the first photographic process. He is also remembered for his invention of and contributions to diorama theater.

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Daguerre was born Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d'Oise, France. While he was young, he studied architecture, theatre design, and panoramic painting.

His interest in theater later became the inspiration for the diorama, which he invented in 1822. He worked with painter Charles Bouton to create enormous dioramas that, with his impressive use of light and Bouton's impressive painting, held the public awestruck.

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He went on to work with Nicéphore Niépce, inventor of the world's first heliograph and later the world's first photograph. In 1833, Niépce died suddenly and Daguerre continued to work on their project. While Niépce had still been alive, the two had worked together to reduce Niépce's camera's exposure time. It wasn't until after Niépce's death that Daguerre succeeded in using silver salts, which had light-sensitive properties.

At first, Daguerre's process, called a Daguerreotype, still required long exposure times. But Daguerre made the important discovery that an invisible image could be captured much more quickly and that image could be later chemically "developed" into a visible one.

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As the product was developed, it became more useful. Initially, it was mainly used for portraits, but still it required a lot of light on a very still subject. When it was first developed, it still required an exposure time of about ten minutes. Viewers of its photos remarked with awe that the streets of Paris seemed to appear without vehicles or horses, and few people—the reason being that moving objects could not yet be captured with such long exposure times. With the advent of newer lenses, it became more practical, with exposure times being cut to only a few seconds.

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Believed to be the earliest photograph showing a living person. It is a view of a busy street, but because the exposure time was at least ten minutes the moving traffic left no trace. Only the two men near the bottom left corner, one apparently having his boots polished by the other, stayed in one place long enough to be visible. Note that, as with most daguerreotypes, the image is a mirror image. (source)

In the late 1830s, Daguerre demonstrated his process to the French Academy of Sciences. The French Government later offered the invention as a gift from France "free to the world."

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 18 November 2014
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