The Gift of the Daguerreotype

In 1829, a French artist and designer named Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre struck a partnership with fellow inventor Joseph-Nicephore Niépce to develop a method to permanently capture the fleeting images visible in a camera obscura. Niépce passed away suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre kept experimenting, finally achieving success around 1834. The daguerreotype process used a polished sheet of silver-plated copper, treated with iodine to make it light-sensitive, which was exposed (for several minutes or more) under a lens, then “fixed” using mercury vapor. The existence of the process was first announced to the public in January of 1839—followed by an extraordinary move by the French government that would fuel the rapid growth of photography worldwide. Recognizing the enormous potential of this invention, the French government made a deal with Daguerre, acquiring the rights to the process in exchange for lifetime pensions for both Daguerre and Niépce’s son. Then the government gave it all away. On August 19, 1839, the details of the new daguerreotype process were presented to the public as a gift to the world from France.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Ads are being blocked

For us to continue writing great stories, we need to display ads.

Un-block Learn more
Back

Whitelist

Please select the extension that is blocking ads.

Back

Please follow the steps below

Most Recent

  • Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 8/20-8/26

    Lenin underwater, a penguin weigh-in, monsoon flooding in India, an earthquake in central Italy, a deep blue lake in El Salvador, and much more.

  • Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuter / REUTERS

    Animals Rescued From the 'Worst Zoo in the World' in Gaza

    Four Paws, an international animal welfare group, has just completed the removal of the surviving 15 animals from the Khan Younis Zoo—dubbed the “worst zoo in the world”—in the Gaza Strip

  • Gregorio Borgia / AP

    An Earthquake in Central Italy Topples Buildings, Killing Dozens

    Central Italy was struck by a powerful, shallow, 6.2-magnitude earthquake at 3:36 am local time, devastating several mountain villages, and resulting in at least 73 deaths so far.

  • Francois-Xavier Marit / AFP / Getty

    Rio 2016: Photos From the Final Weekend

    Today’s final entry encompasses rhythmic gymnastics, wrestling, triathlon, mountain biking, canoe, modern pentathlon, soccer, the Closing Ceremony, and much more.

Join the Discussion