Talbot, William Henry Fox

b. 11 February 1800 Melbury, England
d. 17 September 1877 Lacock, Wiltshire, England
English scientist, inventor of negative—positive photography and practicable photo engraving.
Educated at Harrow, where he first showed an interest in science, and at Cambridge, Talbot was an outstanding scholar and a formidable mathematician. He published over fifty scientific papers and took out twelve English patents. His interests outside the field of science were also wide and included Assyriology, etymology and the classics. He was briefly a Member of Parliament, but did not pursue a parliamentary career.
Talbot's invention of photography arose out of his frustrating attempts to produce acceptable pencil sketches using popular artist's aids, the camera discura and camera lucida. From his experiments with the former he conceived the idea of placing on the screen a paper coated with silver salts so that the image would be captured chemically. During the spring of 1834 he made outline images of subjects such as leaves and flowers by placing them on sheets of sensitized paper and exposing them to sunlight. No camera was involved and the first images produced using an optical system were made with a solar microscope. It was only when he had devised a more sensitive paper that Talbot was able to make camera pictures; the earliest surviving camera negative dates from August 1835. From the beginning, Talbot noticed that the lights and shades of his images were reversed. During 1834 or 1835 he discovered that by placing this reversed image on another sheet of sensitized paper and again exposing it to sunlight, a picture was produced with lights and shades in the correct disposition. Talbot had discovered the basis of modern photography, the photographic negative, from which could be produced an unlimited number of positives. He did little further work until the announcement of Daguerre's process in 1839 prompted him to publish an account of his negative-positive process. Aware that his photogenic drawing process had many imperfections, Talbot plunged into further experiments and in September 1840, using a mixture incorporating a solution of gallic acid, discovered an invisible latent image that could be made visible by development. This improved calotype process dramatically shortened exposure times and allowed Talbot to take portraits. In 1841 he patented the process, an exercise that was later to cause controversy, and between 1844 and 1846 produced The Pencil of Nature, the world's first commercial photographically illustrated book.
Concerned that some of his photographs were prone to fading, Talbot later began experiments to combine photography with printing and engraving. Using bichromated gelatine, he devised the first practicable method of photo engraving, which was patented as Photoglyphic engraving in October 1852. He later went on to use screens of gauze, muslin and finely powdered gum to break up the image into lines and dots, thus anticipating modern photomechanical processes.
Talbot was described by contemporaries as the "Father of Photography" primarily in recognition of his discovery of the negative-positive process, but he also produced the first photomicrographs, took the first high-speed photographs with the aid of a spark from a Leyden jar, and is credited with proposing infra-red photography. He was a shy man and his misguided attempts to enforce his calotype patent made him many enemies. It was perhaps for this reason that he never received the formal recognition from the British nation that his family felt he deserved.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRS March 1831. Royal Society Rumford Medal 1842. Grand Médaille d'Honneur, L'Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1855. Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Edinburgh University, 1863.
1839, "Some account of the art of photographic drawing", Royal Society Proceedings 4:120–1; Phil. Mag., XIV, 1839, pp. 19–21.
8 February 1841, British patent no. 8842 (calotype process).
1844–6, The Pencil of Nature, 6 parts, London (Talbot'a account of his invention can be found in the introduction; there is a facsimile edn, with an intro. by Beamont Newhall, New York, 1968.
Further Reading
H.J.P.Arnold, 1977, William Henry Fox Talbot, London.
D.B.Thomas, 1964, The First Negatives, London (a lucid concise account of Talbot's photograph work).
J.Ward and S.Stevenson, 1986, Printed Light, Edinburgh (an essay on Talbot's invention and its reception).
H.Gernsheim and A.Gernsheim, 1977, The History of Photography, London (a wider picture of Talbot, based primarily on secondary sources).

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

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Talbot,William Henry Fox — Talbot, William Henry Fox. 1800 1877. British inventor and pioneer in photography who made photographic prints on paper treated with silver chloride (1838) and produced the first book illustrated with photographs (1844 1846). * * * …   Universalium

  • Talbot, William Henry Fox — ► (1800 77) Físico y arqueólogo británico. Consiguió fijar sobre un papel la imagen dada por una cámara oscura (talbotipia). * * * (11 feb. 1800, Melbury Abbas, Dorset, Inglaterra–17 sep. 1877, Lacock Abbey, cerca de Chippenham, Wiltshire).… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Talbot, William Henry Fox — born Feb. 11, 1800, Melbury Abbas, Dorset, Eng. died Sept. 17, 1877, Lacock Abbey, near Chippenham, Wiltshire English chemist and pioneer photographer. In 1840 he developed the calotype, an early photographic process that improved on the… …   Universalium

  • Talbot, William Henry Fox — (11.12.1800 17.9.1877) Englischer Physiker und Chemiker. Entwickelte in den 30er Jahren des 19. Jahrhunderts ein fotografisches Verfahren, die Kalotypie, bei der ein Papiernegativ entstand, welches im Kontaktverfahren erstmals beliebig zu… …   Das Lexikon aus „Bernie's Foto-Programm"

  • TALBOT, WILLIAM HENRY FOX —    one of the earliest experimenters and a discoverer in photography, born in Chippenham, which he represented in Parliament; was also one of the first to decipher the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions (1800 1877) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Fox Talbot, William Henry — See: Talbot, William Henry Fox …   Biographical history of technology

  • William Henry Fox Talbot — 1844 William Henry Fox Talbot (* 11. Februar 1800 in Melbury, Grafschaft Dorset, England; † 17. September 1877 in Lacock Abbey, Grafschaft Wiltshire, England) war ein Angehöriger der englischen Oberschicht, gut ausgebildet und erfolgreich auf… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Henry Fox Talbot — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Talbot (homonymie). William Henry Fox Talbot en 1844 William Henry Fox Talbot (11 février 1800 17 septembre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Henry Fox Talbot — noun English inventor and pioneer in photography who published the first book illustrated with photographs (1800 1877) • Syn: ↑Talbot, ↑Fox Talbot • Instance Hypernyms: ↑inventor, ↑discoverer, ↑artificer, ↑photographer, ↑lensman …   Useful english dictionary

  • William Henry Fox Talbot — (11.12.1800 17.9.1877) Englischer Physiker und Chemiker. Entwickelte in den 30er Jahren des 19. Jahrhunderts ein fotografisches Verfahren, die Kalotypie, bei der ein Papiernegativ entstand, welches im Kontaktverfahren erstmals beliebig zu… …   Das Lexikon aus „Bernie's Foto-Programm"

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.