Chronography of Light, Cameras, Optics

Page last modified 25/12/2022


Home Page


See also Electric Light.


1992, Japanese company Canon introduced a camera with autofocus controlled by the user�s eye � it focussed on whatever the user was looking at.

1988, The first electronic camera, which stored images on magnetic disc instead of film, was produced in Japan.

1983, The National Museum of Photography opened in Bradford, England.

1982, The first camcorder, a camera that could record video images, was released. An earlier device, the videocamera, (1978) did not have a data storage facility.

1975, The Center for Creative Photography was established at the University of Arizona, USA.

1972, Polaroid introduced the SX70 camera with instant prints.

1966, The International Centre of Photography was established in New York.

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.

22/3/1960, US scientists patented the laser.

1959, The zoom lens was invented by Austrian firm Voigtlander.

1955, Kodak introduced the black and white 200 ASA film Tri-X.


28/11/1948. The first Polaroid cameras went on sale, in Boston, USA. They printed in black and white only, and took about 1 minute to create the print. 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.

1932, Polaroid Film was invented by Edwin Herbert Land, a dropout from Harvard College

7/5/1909, Edwin Land, American inventor of the Polaroid lens and the instant camera, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


1959, Xerox introduced the first reliable commercial photocopier. It weighed 300kg.

22/10/1938, Chester F Carlson made the first photocopy image.

8/9/1938, Chester Carlson patented the first photocopier.

8/2/1906, Birth of Chester Carlson, who invented the photocopier.


1938, Picture Post magazine began publishing in the UK.

1935, The electronic flash was invented in the USA.

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.

14/3/1932. The US industrialist George Eastman, founder of Kodak, committed suicide.

7/10/1931, The first photograph in infrared light was taken in Rochester, New York, USA. This allowed pictures to be taken in total darkness.

1924, Leitz introduced the first 35mm camera, the Leica (delayed due to World War One). Journalists quickly adopted it because it was quiet, small, reliable, and came with a range of lenses and other accessories.

20/7/1924, Robert D Maurer, who invented the optical fibre, was born.

19/1/1915, George Claude patented the neon tube, for use in advertising.

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.

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.

1905, Alfred Stieglitz opened the Gallery 291 in New York, promoting photography Hewis Line used the medium of photography to expose exploitative child labour in US factories, causing protective laws to be passed.

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.


Invention of movie films

14/4/1904. The first attempt to produce �talking pictures� was made at the Fulham Theatre, London, using cinematography and a phonograph.

28/12/1895, Auguste and Louis Lumiere screened tnhe first true motion picture on their new invention, the cinematographe, which gave us the word cinema.

13/2/1894, Auguste and Louis Lumiere patented the Cinematographe, a combination film projector and camera.

15/4/1891. Thomas Edison publicly demonstrated his �kinetoscope�, or moving picture machine, in New York.


Photography becomes cheap, accessible to all

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.

13/9/1898, The Reverend Hannibal Williston Goodwin finally received a patent for his invention of celluloid film, which he developed to illustrate his sermons over a decade earlier (see 7/5/1888). His estate later sued Eastman Kodak for copyright infringement and won US$ 5 million.

22/3/1895, The first demonstration of celluloid cinema film was given in Paris by Auguste and Louis Lumiere.

1888, The Kodak camera went on sale; costing US$ 25, it could take 100 shots. The whole camera was sent to Rochester New York for processing and for US$ 10 was returned with another 100-shot film. It was very easy to use.

4/9/1888, George Eastman, founder of the Kodak film company, patented the first camera film roll. Before then, cameras were the size of a microwave oven and neededchemicals, glass plates and tanks to taker a photograph.

7/5/1888. George Eastman, a former bank clerk aged 34 (see 12/7/1854), founded the Kodak photographic company. He chose the name Kodak because he thought it would be easy to remember.

2/5/1887, The Reverend Hannibal W Goodwin applied for a patent on his invention of celluloid film. See 13/9/1898.

11/10/1881, US inventor David Henderson Houston patented photographic roll film.


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.

15/1/1885, Wilson Bentley took the first photograph of a snowflake.

30/12/1883, John Dallmeyer, Anglo-German optician, died (born 6/9/1830).

4/1/1882, John Draper, photography pioneer, died (born 5/5/1811).

1881, An interferometer was developed by German American physicist Albert Graham Michelson,aged 29. In 1887 he used this apparatus, along with Edward H Morley, to prove that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant irrespective of motion of the observer or source. This led to Einsteins Theory of Relativity.

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.

27/12/1867, Antoine Claudet, pioneer of photography, died (born 12/8/1797).

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.

6/3/1841, Marie Cornu, French physicist, was born (died 11/4/1902).

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.

6/9/1830, John Dallmeyer, Anglo-German optician, was born (died 30/12/1883).

9/4/1830, Eadweard Muybridge, photographer and motion picture pioneer, was born.

14/7/1827, Augustin Fresnel, pioneer in lenses, died (born 10/5/1788)

1826. First directly fixed image with a camera onto a pewter plate was produced � see the year 1813.

9/11/1825, Thomas Drummond set up a reflector with burning lime in front, and the intense light could be seen 106 km (66 miles) away. Limelight came to be used for lighthouses and theatres.

1821, Fraunhofer invented the diffraction grating.

1820, Augustin Jean Fresnel invented the Fresnel lens, much used in lighthouses.

6/4/1820, Felix Nadar, photographer, was born.

23/9/1819, Birth of Armand Hippolyte, French physicist who was the first to measure the speed of light, in 1849. 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.

23/2/1812, Etienne Malus, French optical physicist, died (born 23/6/1775).

1808, Etienne Louis Malus (born Paris 23/6/1775) discovered that reflected light is polarised and coined the term �polarisation�.

28/1/1807. London�s Pall Mall became the first street in the world to be lit by gaslight. This was an initiative to publicise the new method of illumination by German migrant FA Winzer (later Anglicised to Winsor), and his company, the Gas Light and Coke Company, floated in 1812. In 1814 street gas lighting began in Westminister and by the end of 1816 London had 26 miles of gas mains. This rose to 122 miles by 1823 and 600 miles by 1834. By 1823 52 English towns had gas lighting and by 1859 Britain had nearly 1,000 gas works. The gas industry produced many useful by-products such as ammonia, naphtha and crude tar.

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.

1800, Sir William Herschel discovered infra-red radiation, by using a sensitive thermometer.

24/12/1799, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German physicist who discovered the principlke of xerography photocopying, died in Ober Ramstadt, near Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany, aged 56.

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. See 9/11/1825.

12/8/1797, Antoine Claudet, pioneer of photography, was born (died 27/12/1867).

2/3/1791. The worlds first optical telegraph, or semaphore machine, was unveiled in Paris.

10/5/1788, Augustin Fresnel, pioneer in lenses, was born (died 14/7/1827)

18/11/1787, Louis Daguerre, French artist and pioneer of photography, was born near 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.

23/6/1775, Etienne Malus, French optical physicist, was born (died 23/2/1812).

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.

30/11/1761, John Dollond, English optician, died (born 10/6/1706).

14/2/1744, Joseph Hadley, optician who invented the reflecting octant, ancestor of the sextant, died in East Barnet in Hertfordshire.

10/6/1706, John Dollond, English optician, was born (died 30/11/1761).

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.


Back to top