Lippman, Gabriel

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b. 16 August 1845 Hallerick, Luxembourg
d. 14 July 1921 at sea, in the North Atlantic
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French physicist who developed interference colour photography.
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Born of French parents, Lippman's work began with a distinguished career in classics, philosophy, mathematics and physics at the Ecole Normale in Luxembourg. After further studies in physics at Heidelberg University, he returned to France and the Sorbonne, where he was in 1886 appointed Director of Physics. He was a leading pioneer in France of research into electricity, optics, heat and other branches of physics.
In 1886 he conceived the idea of recording the existence of standing waves in light when it is reflected back on itself, by photographing the colours so produced. This required the production of a photographic emulsion that was effectively grainless: the individual silver halide crystals had to be smaller than the shortest wavelength of light to be recorded. Lippman succeeded in this and in 1891 demonstrated his process. A glass plate was coated with a grainless emulsion and held in a special plate-holder, glass towards the lens. The back of the holder was filled with mercury, which provided a perfect reflector when in contact with the emulsion. The standing waves produced during the exposure formed laminae in the emulsion, with the number of laminae being determined by the wavelength of the incoming light at each point on the image. When the processed plate was viewed under the correct lighting conditions, a theoretically exact reproduction of the colours of the original subject could be seen. However, the Lippman process remained a beautiful scientific demonstration only, since the ultra-fine-grain emulsion was very slow, requiring exposure times of over 10,000 times that of conventional negative material. Any method of increasing the speed of the emulsion also increased the grain size and destroyed the conditions required for the process to work.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Royal Photographic Society Progress Medal 1897. Nobel Prize (for his work in interference colour photography) 1908.
Further Reading
J.S.Friedman, 1944, History of Colour Photography, Boston.
Brian Coe, 1978, Colour Photography: The First Hundred Years, London. Gert Koshofer, 1981, Farbfotografie, Vol. I, Munich.
BC

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

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