Day 64 of Colourisation Project – July 10
Louis Daguerre was a French artist, physicist, scientist and inventor who gained international acclaim with his eponymous invention the Daguerreotype process of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.
Daguerre is often credited with being the inventor of photography. Without doubt, when he passed away 163 years ago, he left behind a legacy that modern photography was built on.
In 1839, Louis Daguerre’s daguerreotype process was announced at a meeting of the Academy of Sciences by eminent astronomer and physicist François Arago. Daguerre‘s invention was revolutionary. He succeeded in producing an image in less than thirty minutes that did not fade. The Daguerreotype process works by exposing images directly onto a mirror-polished, copper plate coated with silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor.
Although the Daguerreotype process could not capture moving images, once its potential was realized, others soon built on this pioneer technology and although Daguerre never set foot on American soil, his invention opened up the American photographic industry, and led to the millions of early portraits created using the daguerreotype process.
By 1840 Americans flocked to newly-opened daguerreotype galleries to pose for their portraits. By 1843 a burgeoning daguerreotype portrait industry had evolved in the United States offering glimpses into the past lives of generations of Americans and for future historians and photographers alike, a rich source of historical, social and cultural data. The first photographic image of Abraham Lincoln was a Daguerreotype made in 1846.
Sadly only 25 securely attributed photographs by Daguerre survive, providing a tiny glimpse of Parisian life. His laboratory burned to the ground on March 8, 1839, destroying his written records and the bulk of his early experimental works.
Daguerre died on July 10, 1851, in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km from Paris, where a monument marks his grave.
On the Eiffel Tower, seventy-two names of French scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are engraved in recognition of their contributions. Daguerre’s name is one of them.
In 1839 Daguerre was made an officer of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France and in the same year, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences as an Honorary Academician.
“I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight.” Louis Daguerre