Sutton, Thomas

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b. 1819 England
d. 1875 Jersey, Channel Islands
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English photographer and writer on photography.
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In 1841, while studying at Cambridge, Sutton became interested in photography and tried out the current processes, daguerreotype, calotype and cyanotype among them. He subsequently settled in Jersey, where he continued his photographic studies. In 1855 he opened a photographic printing works in Jersey, in partnership with L.-D. Blanquart- Evrard, exploiting the latter's process for producing developed positive prints. He started and edited one of the first photographic periodicals, Photographic Notes, in 1856; until its cessation in 1867, his journal presented a fresher view of the world of photography than that given by its London-based rivals. He also drew up the first dictionary of photography in 1858.
In 1859 Sutton designed and patented a wideangle lens in which the space between two meniscus lenses, forming parts of a sphere and sealed in a metal rim, was filled with water; the lens so formed could cover an angle of up to 120 degrees at an aperture of f12. Sutton's design was inspired by observing the images produced by the water-filled sphere of a "snowstorm" souvenir brought home from Paris! Sutton commissioned the London camera-maker Frederick Cox to make the Panoramic camera, demonstrating the first model in January 1860; it took panoramic pictures on curved glass plates 152×381 mm in size. Cox later advertised other models in a total of four sizes. In January 1861 Sutton handed over manufacture to Andrew Ross's son Thomas Ross, who produced much-improved lenses and also cameras in three sizes. Sutton then developed the first single-lens reflex camera design, patenting it on 20 August 1961: a pivoted mirror, placed at 45 degrees inside the camera, reflected the image from the lens onto a ground glass-screen set in the top of the camera for framing and focusing. When ready, the mirror was swung up out of the way to allow light to reach the plate at the back of the camera. The design was manufactured for a few years by Thomas Ross and J.H. Dallmeyer.
In 1861 James Clerk Maxwell asked Sutton to prepare a series of photographs for use in his lecture "On the theory of three primary colours", to be presented at the Royal Institution in London on 17 May 1861. Maxwell required three photographs to be taken through red, green and blue filters, which were to be printed as lantern slides and projected in superimposition through three projectors. If his theory was correct, a colour reproduction of the original subject would be produced. Sutton used liquid filters: ammoniacal copper sulphate for blue, copper chloride for the green and iron sulphocyanide for the red. A fourth exposure was made through lemon-yellow glass, but was not used in the final demonstration. A tartan ribbon in a bow was used as the subject; the wet-collodion process in current use required six seconds for the blue exposure, about twice what would have been needed without the filter. After twelve minutes no trace of image was produced through the green filter, which had to be diluted to a pale green: a twelve-minute exposure then produced a serviceable negative. Eight minutes was enough to record an image through the red filter, although since the process was sensitive only to blue light, nothing at all should have been recorded. In 1961, R.M.Evans of the Kodak Research Laboratory showed that the red liquid transmitted ultraviolet radiation, and by an extraordinary coincidence many natural red dye-stuffs reflect ultraviolet. Thus the red separation was made on the basis of non-visible radiation rather than red, but the net result was correct and the projected images did give an identifiable reproduction of the original. Sutton's photographs enabled Maxwell to establish the validity of his theory and to provide the basis upon which all subsequent methods of colour photography have been founded.
JW / BC

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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