Herschel, John Frederick William

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b. 7 March 1792 Slough, England
d. 11 May 1871 Collingwood, England
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English scientist who introduced "hypo" (thiosulphate) as a photographic fixative and discovered the blueprint process.
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The only son of Sir William Herschel, the famous astronomer, John graduated from Cambridge in 1813 and went on to become a distinguished astronomer, mathematician and chemist. He left England in November 1833 to set up an observatory near Cape Town, South Africa, where he embarked on a study of the heavens in the southern hemisphere. He returned to England in the spring of 1838, and between 1850 and 1855 Herschel served as Master of the Royal Mint. He made several notable contributions to photography, perhaps the most important being his discovery in 1819 that hyposulphites (thiosulphates) would dissolve silver salts. He brought this property to the attention of W.H.F. Talbot, who in 1839 was using a common salt solution as a fixing agent for his early photographs. After trials, Talbot adopted "hypo", which was a far more effective fixative. It was soon adopted by other photographers and eventually became the standard photographic fixative, as it still is in the 1990s. After hearing of the first photographic process in January 1839, Herschel devised his own process within a week. In September 1839 he made the first photograph on glass. He is credited with introducing the words "positive", "negative" and "snapshot" to photography, and in 1842 he invented the cyanotype or "blueprint" process. This process was later to be widely adopted by engineers and architects for the reproduction of plans and technical drawings, a practice abandoned only in the late twentieth century.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knight of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order 1831. Baronet 1838. FRS 1813. Copley Medal 1821.
Further Reading
Dictionary of National Biography, 1968, Vol. IX, pp. 714–19.
H.J.P.Arnold, 1977, William Henry Fox Talbot, London; Larry J.Schaaf, 1992, Out of the Shadows: Herschel, Talbot and the Invention of Photography, Newhaven and London (for details of his contributions to photography and his relationship with Talbot).
JW

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

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