Dancer, John Benjamin

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b. 1812 England
d. 1887 England
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English instrument maker and photographer, pioneer of microphotography.
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The son of a scientific instrument maker, Dancer was educated privately in Liverpool, where from 1817 his father practised his trade. John Benjamin became a skilled instrument maker in his own right, assisting in the family business until his father's death in 1835. He set up on his own in Liverpool in 1840 and in Manchester in 1841. In the course of his career Dancer made instruments for several of the leading scientists of the day, his clients including Brewster, Dalton and Joule.
Dancer became interested in photography as soon as the new art was announced in 1839 and practised the processes of both Talbot and Daguerre. It was later claimed that as early as 1839 he used an achromatic lens combination to produce a minute image on a daguerreotype plate, arguably the world's first microphotograph and the precursor of modern microfilm. It was not until the introduction of Archer's wet-collodion process in 1851 that Dancer was able to perfect the technique however. He went on to market a long series of microphotographs which proved extremely popular with both the public and contemporary photographers. It was examples of Dancer's microphotographs that prompted the French photographer Dagron to begin his work in the same field. In 1853 Dancer constructed a binocular stereoscopic camera, the first practicable instrument of its type. In an improved form it was patented and marketed in 1856.
Dancer also made important contributions to the magic lantern. He was the first to suggest the use of limelight as an illuminant, pioneered the use of photographic lantern slides and devised an ingenious means of switching gas from one lantern illuminant to another to produce what were known as dissolving views. He was a resourceful innovator in other fields of instrumentation and suggested several other minor improvements to scientific apparatus before his working life was sadly terminated by the loss of his sight.
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Further Reading
Anon., 1973, "John Benjamin Dancer, originator of microphotography", British Journal of Photography (16 February): 139–41.
H.Gernsheim and A.Gernsheim, 1969, The History of Photography, rev. edn, London.
JW

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

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