Biography Louis Daguerre

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre was born on November 18, 1787 at Cormeilles-en-Parisis. He began his career as an artist. He is probably the most famous of several people who invented the photography.

His working career began as an apprentice architect. When he was 16, he was an assistant stage designer in a Paris theatre – Paris Opera. His stage designs won him a considerable acclaim. He was quite ingenious in using and handling of the light and light effects. He invented and developed Diorama – his term for impressive illusion theatre. In fact it was a picture show where light effects changed with large paintings of famous places. This was pretty popular in the early twenties of the last century.

He used on a regular basis a camera obscura as an aid to painting in perspective which paved the way for freezing the image and he was searching for a way how to do it. In 1826 he learned about the work of Nicephore Niepce, and on Januanry 4, 1829 they had become partners.

Their partnership,however, did not last long because Niepce died in 1833 but Daguerre went on with his experiments. His important discovery was made by chance. In 1835, according to the urban legend, he put an exposed plate in his chemical cupboard, and after a couple of days, he found out, much to his surprise, that the latent image had developed. Eventually, Daguerre concluded that this had happened because of mercury vapours from a broken thermometer.

However, this significant discovery that a latent image could be developed made it possible to shorten the exposure time from about eight hours to thirty minutes.

Although he knew how to produce an image, after two years, in 1837 he was able to fix the problem. This new process he named a Daguerreotype.

Daguerre was looking for sponsors to develop his research but few seemed interested. Then, he turned to Francois Arago, a politician, who instantly saw the potential of this process and the French government of that time commissioned a report on the process. Daguerre gave the rights to the French government in exchange for annuities to be paid equally to him and NIepce’s son. His main concern was that he was to be remembered as the inventor of the daguerreotype.

On January 1839 an announcement was made of the discovery but the details had not been revealed until August 19 when the French government bought the process from him. However, the process had also been patented in England and Wales on August 14 but only five days ago.

After the process had been announced, it quickly became popular and widely used. The excitement the daguerreotype caused can be matched to that when the man first walked on the moon in 1969.

However, the daguerreotype was not impeccable. It has its flaws. Though the image was permanent, it was damaged by the slightest movement and friction because the imprinted layer was very thin. No copies could be made either because it had only a single direct positive. The outdoor photography was also difficult because the equipment weighed about 110 lb. or 50 kg. Thus it was rarely practiced outside.

By the 1850s the daguerreotype had been improved to its practical usage.

Daguerre retired to Bry-Sur-Marne in 1840 and died there on July 10, 1851.