Light, Cameras, Optics
Page last modified 24/3/2020
1965, Holography was first discovered by D Gabor.
18/3/1964, The Lava Lamp was patented by David George Smith for Crestworth Ltd, Poole, UK.
16/5/1960, The first working laser was created by Theodore H Maiman. At first it had no obvious practical applications, but is now indispensable by the military, phone networks, supermarket checkouts and security.
1959, Xerox introduced the first reliable commercial photocopier. It weighed 300kg.
28/11/1948. The first Polaroid cameras went on sale, in Boston, USA. The price was US$ 89.75 – the equivalent of US$ 900, or UK£595 in 2015. All 37 had sold by the end of the day.
3/2/1948, The instant Polaroid camera was patented by Edwin Herbert Land in Massachusetts.
22/10/1938, Chester F Carlson made the first photocopy image.
8/9/1938, Chester Carlson patented the first photocopier.
1/12/1935, Russian-German optician Bernhardt Voldemar Schmidt died in Hamburg.
1933, High-intensity mercury vapour lamps were introduced.
4/7/1932, The Anglepoise adjustable desk lamp was patented by George Geraldine in England.
27/8/1910. Thomas Edison, in New Jersey, demonstrated talking movie pictures for the first time in his New Jersey laboratory. He used a device that was part phonograph, part camera, to record sounds and pictures simultaneously. He predicted that moving pictures with sound in colour would soon be possible.
7/5/1909, Edwin Land, American inventor of the Polaroid lens and the instant camera, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
1/12/1906. The world’s first purpose-built picture palace, the Cinema Omnia Pathe, opened in Paris.
17/10/1906. First transmission of a picture by telegraph.
8/2/1906, Birth of Chester Carlson, who invented the photocopier.
15/7/1904, Pavel Chenenkov was born in Voronezh, Russia. In 1934 he discovered that a particle travelling at close to the speed of light in a vacuum through a liquid or transparent solid travels faster than the speed of light in that medium, light is emitted. This is now known as Cherenkov radiation.
14/4/1904. The first attempt to produce ‘talking pictures’ was made at the Fulham Theatre, London, using cinematography and a phonograph.
1/2/1900, The Eastman-Kodak Company introduced the Brownie Cameras, It was very simple and easy to use, and cost just 1 US$. Film cost 15 cents for 6 shots. Suddenly, photography was within reach of everybody. The Brownie cameras were sold until the 1960s, when demand for 35mm cameras with Kodak’s newer film such as Kodachrome outstripped them. The Brownie also fuelled a boom in family photo albums, which lasted until the age of the digital camera.
22/3/1895, The first demonstration of celluloid cinema film was given in Paris by Auguste and Louis Lumiere.
7/11/1888, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman was born. In 1931 he won the Nobel Physics Prize for his discovery of the changing wavelengths of light when it passed through a transparent material.
4/9/1888, George Eastman, founder of the Kodak film company, patented the first camera film roll.
9/11/1881, Dr Herbert Thomas Kalmus, US inventor of Technicolor, was born.
1879, Coleman Defries patented the bayonet cap for electric light bulbs.
19/2/1878. Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.
11/12/1877, Englishman Eadweard Muybridge, photographer of the American West, used a novel photographic technique to resolve a bet made by the Governor of California, rail magnate Leland Stanford. Stanford believed that all four legs of a racehorse left the ground simultaneously as it galloped. Muybridge proved Stanford right by stringing tripwires across a racecourse and galloping a horse down it, setting off camera shots to obtain a series of still shots. Muybridge then used the novel technique to study dancers and runners in action.
17/9/1877, William Henry Fox Talbot, English pioneer of photography, died at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.
24/9/1870, Georges Claude was born in Paris. In 1910 he introduced the neon light to Paris.
11/2/1868, Jean Foucault, French physicist who measured the speed of light, died in Paris.
19/10/1862, Auguste Lumiere was born. With his brother Louis, he developed the motion picture projector.
17/5/1861. The first colour photograph was exhibited at the Royal Institution, London.
12/7/1854. George Eastman, USA photographic pioneer who founded Kodak, was born in Waterville, New York State. (see 7/5/1888).
12/7/1851, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, French pioneer in photography, died.
20/8/1839, In Paris, LJM Daguerre demonstrated a way of capturing images on a metallic plate; the birth of photography.
2/1/1839, Frenchman Louis Daguerre took the first photograph of the Moon.
5/7/1833, Nicorie Nie, pioneer in photography and creator of the first negative on paper,died.
1826. First directly fixed image with a camera onto a pewter plate was produced – see the year 1813.
1821, Fraunhofer invented the diffraction grating.
1820, Augustin Jean Fresnel invented the Fresnel lens, much used in lighthouses.
23/9/1819, Death of Armand Hippolyte, French physicist who was the first to measure the speed of light. Methods to find this speed include, 1) timing the eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites when at closest and furthest point from Earth, 2) Adjusting the speed of a rotating cog wheel so it turns just one tooth-breadth whilst light travels to a distant mirror and back, and 3) Send a light beam from a source to a rotating mirror and thence to a distant mirror and back, by which time the first mirror has rotated a little, and see how the beam direction has changed.
1813, Lithography (early photography) became fashionable in France. J N Niepce (born 7/3/1765) conducted experiments to produce light-dependent images, which he called Heliography. In 1826 he produced the first directly fixed image with a camera onto a pewter plate.
1808, Etienne Louis Malus (born Paris 23/6/1775) discovered that reflected light is polarised and coined the term ‘polarisation’.
1801, Ultra-violet radiation was discovered in 1801 when the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter observed that invisible rays just beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum darkened silver chloride-soaked paper more quickly than violet light itself. He called them ‘oxidizing rays’ to emphasize chemical reactivity and to distinguish them from ‘heat rays’, discovered the previous year at the other end of the visible spectrum.
10/10/1797, Thomas Drummond was born. Along with Goldsworth Gurney (born 1798) he invented ;limelight’, an intense beam of light produced by the combustion of lime (calcium oxide) in an alcohol flame with added oxygen, and focussed by a parabolic mirror.
2/3/1791. The worlds first optical telegraph, or semaphore machine, was unveiled in Paris.
26/2/1786, Dominique Francois Arago was born in Estagel, France. In 1809 he discovered that blue light from the sky is polarised, and found the neutral point where polarisation is absent.
23/5/1785, Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of bifocals.
1773, The achromatic lens was invented. It is made of glass of different refractive indeces, so refracts all colours of light equally.
7/3/1765, Joseph Niepce, French doctor who produced the first photograph from nature using a camera obscura, pewter plates, and an 8 hour exposure, was born.
14/2/1744, Joseph Hadley, optician who invented the reflecting octant, ancestor of the sextant, died in East Barnet in Hertfordshire.
1678, Huygens developed the wave theory of light.
1668, Isaac Newton built the first reflecting telescope.
1666, Newton investigated the spectrum of light.
1660, The microscope was greatly improved by Leeuwenhoek.
1608, In The Netherlands, Spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey made a demonstration of the telescope.
1590, In The Netherlands, spectacle-maker Hans Janssen and his son Zaccharias invented the microscope.
1286, A monk in Pisa is reported as having made the first pair of eye glasses – mentioned in a sermon of 1306.
79,000 BCE, Early stone lamps in use, fuelled by animal fat with grass or moss for a wick.