Chronography of Light, Cameras, Optics

Page last modified 30 May 2023


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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 March 1964, The Lava Lamp was patented by David George Smith for Crestworth Ltd, Poole, UK.

16 May 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 March 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 November 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 February 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 May 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 October 1938, Chester F Carlson made the first photocopy image.

8 September 1938, Chester Carlson patented the first photocopier.

8 February 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 December 1935, Russian-German optician Bernhardt Voldemar Schmidt died in Hamburg.

1933, High-intensity mercury vapour lamps were introduced.

4 July1932, The Anglepoise adjustable desk lamp was patented by George Geraldine in England.

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

7 October 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 July1924, Robert D Maurer, who invented the optical fibre, was born.

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

27 August1910. 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 December 1906. The world�s first purpose-built picture palace, the Cinema Omnia Pathe, opened in Paris.

17 October 1906. First transmission of a picture by telegraph.

5 July 1906, Paul Karl Ludwig Drude, German optical physicist, committed suicide aged 42

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 July1904, 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 April 1904. The first attempt to produce �talking pictures� was made at the Fulham Theatre, London, using cinematography and a phonograph.

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

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

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


Photography becomes cheap, accessible to all

1 February 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 September 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 May 1888). His estate later sued Eastman Kodak for copyright infringement and won US$ 5 million.

22 March 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 September 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 May 1888. George Eastman, a former bank clerk aged 34 (see 12 July1854), founded the Kodak photographic company. He chose the name Kodak because he thought it would be easy to remember.

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

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


7 November 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 January 1885, Wilson Bentley took the first photograph of a snowflake.

30 December 1883, John Dallmeyer, Anglo-German optician, died (born 6 September 1830).

4 January 1882, John Draper, photography pioneer, died (born 5 May 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 November 1881, Dr Herbert Thomas Kalmus, US inventor of Technicolor, was born.

1879, Coleman Defries patented the bayonet cap for electric light bulbs.

19 February 1878. Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.

11 December 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 September 1877, William Henry Fox Talbot, English pioneer of photography, died at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire.

24 September 1870, Georges Claude was born in Paris. In 1910 he introduced the neon light to Paris.

11 February 1868, Jean Foucault, French physicist who measured the speed of light, died in Paris.

27 December 1867, Antoine Claudet, pioneer of photography, died (born 12 August1797).

19 October 1862, Auguste Lumiere was born. With his brother Louis, he developed the motion picture projector.

17 May 1861. The first colour photograph was exhibited at the Royal Institution, London.

12 July1854. George Eastman, USA photographic pioneer who founded Kodak, was born in Waterville, New York State. (see 7 May 1888).

12 July1851, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, French pioneer in photography, died.

6 March 1841, Marie Cornu, French physicist, was born (died 11 April 1902).

20 August1839, In Paris, LJM Daguerre demonstrated a way of capturing images on a metallic plate; the birth of photography.

2 January 1839, Frenchman Louis Daguerre took the first photograph of the Moon.

5 July1833, Nicorie Nie, pioneer in photography and creator of the first negative on paper,died.

6 September 1830, John Dallmeyer, Anglo-German optician, was born (died 30 December 1883).

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

14 July1827, Augustin Fresnel, pioneer in lenses, died (born 10 May 1788)

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

9 November 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 April 1820, Felix Nadar, photographer, was born.

23 September 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 March 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 February 1812, Etienne Malus, French optical physicist, died (born 23 June 1775).

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


Gas lighting See Food for gas cooking.

1866, Moscow instituted gas lighting.

1859, England now had nearly one thousand gas works.

1837, Philadelphia, USA, instituted gas lighting. However US homes generally did not adopt gas lighting until after the Civil War.

1826, Berlin instituted gas lighting.

1823, England now had 52 towns lit by gas.

1819, The Palais Royal became the first building in Paris to be lit by gas.

1816, Baltimore, USA, instituted gas street lighting.

1 April 1814, Gas lighting commenced in the parish of St Margaret�s, Westminster, London. By 1816 London had 26 miles of gas mains. The spread of gas lighting was aided by the reduced fire insurance premiums charged for buildings with it, as it was safer than other forms of lighting.

28 January 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.

11 February 1800, Tuesday (-53,046) William Henry Fox Talbot, English chemist ad pioneer of photography, was born in Melbury Abbas, Dorset (died 1877).

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

10 October 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 November 1825.

12 August1797, Antoine Claudet, pioneer of photography, was born (died 27 December 1867).

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

10 May 1788, Augustin Fresnel, pioneer in lenses, was born (died 14 July1827)

18 November 1787, Louis Daguerre, French artist and pioneer of photography, was born near Paris.

26 February 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 May 1785, Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of bifocals.

23 June 1775, Etienne Malus, French optical physicist, was born (died 23 February 1812).

1773, The achromatic lens was invented. It is made of glass of different refractive indeces, so refracts all colours of light equally.

7 March 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 November 1761, John Dollond, English optician, died (born 10 June 1706).

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

10 June 1706, John Dollond, English optician, was born (died 30 November 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.

13 August 1624, Danish physicist Erasmus Bartholin was born in Roskilde. In 1669 he published a study of double diffraction, as observed in Iceland Spar.

2 April 1618, Francesco Maria Grimaldi was born in Bologna, Italy. He discovered the interference pattern and diffraction of light, suggesting that light was a wave phenomenon. However his work was neglected until Thomas Yoiung redicvoveerd these principles in 1803.

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.


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