Everywhere you turn, you will spot a photo being taken. Take a stroll to the park, you will find a proud mother taking a photo of her child on the swing sets. Visit a museum, you will find someone taking a snapshot of a great piece of art. Even our phones have great photo abilities these days.

We, at Top SEO blog are dedicated to bringing you top SEO and digital marketing information, as well as share with you the history of the great inventions we have seen through time. As part of “The Modern Inventor” series, we write about these great inventions to educate. If you have an inventor who you would like us to write about please leave a comment below and we will do our best to write about them in the next article.

Father of the Photograph

Joseph Nicephore Niepce

We do not think much about taking a photo with our phones and posting it on sites such as Facebook or Instagram. But the digital photograph we know today has come a long ways from the very first photographs ever made. It’s taken a series of inventions to give us the convenience of sharing our images with the world. It is becoming rarer that we make actual printed photographs as we move further into the digital age. Some of us can remember early photographs which were only in black and white. The first color photographs were taken using what is now an antiquated Polaroid camera. These were great developments of their time. Prior to these devices there were many other inventions which helped move advancements along. Joseph Nicephore Niepce is credited with producing the very first actual photograph in 1827; we can thank him for his contribution next time we quickly post an image online.

Niepce’s Early Years

Joseph Nicephore Niepce was born in Chalon-sur-Saone, France in 1765 to a middle class family. He sought a teaching career and then served in the military after which he came home to help manage the family’s estate, Le Gras. During this time, he became very interested in science and started working with his brother, Claude, on all types of inventions and experiments. They discussed the possibility of being able to use light to reproduce images as early as 1793. By 1816 he had undertaken several experiments toward determining if this would even be possible. Progress was very slow since he had many interests and he was actually interested in other areas primarily. The two brothers put most of their efforts, money and innovation into a combustion engine called a “Pyrelophore” which was used to propel boats. The brother’s engine was used to propel a model boat locally and they spent nearly 20 years promoting and developing the engine.

First Photograph

In 1813, lithography was the craze in France and it is what drew his attention. The various trials he had with lithography are what led to him developing heliography. And that is what led him to create the first photograph from nature in about 1826. The permanent image was made using a camera obscura. Coated pewter plates were exposed to a camera image and then vapors which were created by heating iodine crystals were used to heighten the contrast and darken the silver. In 1827, Niepce went to England in order to visit his brother who was ill. While he was there he met Francis Bauer, a noted botanist. Bauer is the first one to recognize how important the discovery was and encouraged Niepce to share about his invention through writing. While he was in England, Bauer introduced him to key individuals so that he could present both his paper and his heliographs to the Royal Society. Niepce called his first specimens “the first result obtained spontaneously by the action of light.” They were rejected by the Royal Society because Niepce would not disclose the entire process that he used.

Further Experiments

Niepce returned to Le Gras and continued to conduct a wide variety of experiments primarily in heliography. He began working with Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre in 1829 and they agreed to a 10 year contract. However, it 1833, Niepce passed away having never realized any form of economic success or recognition for his inventions. In 1839, the daguerreotype which was Daguerre’s photographic invention became a success commercially. This success overshadowed Niepce’s work and progress on the heliograph. It was too little too late, but some of his primary examples of the heliographs are stored in a collection in the Royal Photographic Society in England.