Dickson, William Kennedy Laurie

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b. August 1860 Brittany, France
d. 28 September 1935 Twickenham, England
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Scottish inventor and photographer.
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Dickson was born in France of English and Scottish parents. As a young man of almost 19 years, he wrote in 1879 to Thomas Edison in America, asking for a job. Edison replied that he was not taking on new staff at that time, but Dickson, with his mother and sisters, decided to emigrate anyway. In 1883 he contacted Edison again, and was given a job at the Goerk Street laboratory of the Edison Electric Works in New York. He soon assumed a position of responsibility as Superintendent, working on the development of electric light and power systems, and also carried out most of the photography Edison required. In 1888 he moved to the Edison West Orange laboratory, becoming Head of the ore-milling department. When Edison, inspired by Muybridge's sequence photographs of humans and animals in motion, decided to develop a motion picture apparatus, he gave the task to Dickson, whose considerable skills in mechanics, photography and electrical work made him the obvious choice. The first experiments, in 1888, were on a cylinder machine like the phonograph, in which the sequence pictures were to be taken in a spiral. This soon proved to be impractical, and work was delayed for a time while Dickson developed a new ore-milling machine. Little progress with the movie project was made until George Eastman's introduction in July 1889 of celluloid roll film, which was thin, tough, transparent and very flexible. Dickson returned to his experiments in the spring of 1891 and soon had working models of a film camera and viewer, the latter being demonstrated at the West Orange laboratory on 20 May 1891. By the early summer of 1892 the project had advanced sufficiently for commercial exploitation to begin. The Kinetograph camera used perforated 35 mm film (essentially the same as that still in use in the late twentieth century), and the kinetoscope, a peep-show viewer, took fifty feet of film running in an endless loop. Full-scale manufacture of the viewers started in 1893, and they were demonstrated on a number of occasions during that year. On 14 April 1894 the first kinetoscope parlour, with ten viewers, was opened to the public in New York. By the end of that year, the kinetoscope was seen by the public all over America and in Europe. Dickson had created the first commercially successful cinematograph system. Dickson left Edison's employment on 2 April 1895, and for a time worked with Woodville Latham on the development of his Panoptikon projector, a projection version of the kinetoscope. In December 1895 he joined with Herman Casier, Henry N.Marvin and Elias Koopman to form the American Mutoscope Company. Casier had designed the Mutoscope, an animated-picture viewer in which the sequences of pictures were printed on cards fixed radially to a drum and were flipped past the eye as the drum rotated. Dickson designed the Biograph wide-film camera to produce the picture sequences, and also a projector to show the films directly onto a screen. The large-format images gave pictures of high quality for the period; the Biograph went on public show in America in September 1896, and subsequently throughout the world, operating until around 1905. In May 1897 Dickson returned to England and set up as a producer of Biograph films, recording, among other subjects, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897, Pope Leo XIII in 1898, and scenes of the Boer War in 1899 and 1900. Many of the Biograph subjects were printed as reels for the Mutoscope to produce the "what the butler saw" machines which were a feature of fairgrounds and seaside arcades until modern times. Dickson's contact with the Biograph Company, and with it his involvement in cinematography, ceased in 1911.
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Further Reading
Gordon Hendricks, 1961, The Edison Motion Picture Myth.
—1966, The Kinetoscope.
—1964, The Beginnings of the Biograph.
BC

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

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  • William Dickson — William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (Francia, 1860 Londres, 1935), fue un cineasta Anglo francés. Creció en Inglaterra pero, en cuanto alcanzo la madurez, reservó su pasaje a los Estados Unidos para buscar fortuna con la compañía de Thomas Edison.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • William K. L. Dickson — Dicksons erster Filmauftritt in Dickson Greeting (1891) William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (* 3. August 1860 in Minihic Sur Rance, Frankreich; † 28. September 1935 in Twickenham, England) war ein Erfinder, der in den Laboratorien von Thomas Alva… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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