French painter and physicist, inventor of the daguerreotype, born at Cormeilles, in the department of Seine-et-Oise, and died on the 12th of July 1851 at Petit-Brie-sur-Marne, near Paris. He was at first occupied as an inland revenue officer, but soon took to scene painting for the opera. He assisted Pierre Prévost (1764-1823) in the execution of panoramic views of Rome, Naples, London, Jerusalem, and Athens, and subsequently (July 11, 1822), in conjunction with Bouton, he opened at Paris the Diorama, an exhibition of pictorial views, the effect of which was heightened by changes in the light thrown upon them. An establishment similar to that at Paris was opened by Daguerre in Regent’s Park, London. On the 3rd of March 1839 the Diorama, together with the work on which Daguerre was then engaged, was destroyed by fire.
This reverse of fortune was soon, however, more than compensated for by the distinction he achieved as the inventor of the daguerreotype photographic process. Nicéphore Niépce, who since 1814 had been seeking a means of obtaining permanent pictures by the action of sunlight, learned in 1826 that Daguerre was similarly occupied. In 1829 he communicated to Daguerre particulars of his method of fixing the images produced in the camera lucida by making use of metallic plates coated with a composition of asphalt and oil of lavender; this, where acted on by the light, remained undissolved when the plate was plunged into a mixture of petroleum and oil of lavender, and the development of the image was effected by the action of acids and other chemical reagents on the exposed surface of the plate. The two investigators labored together in the production of their heliographic pictures from 1829 until the death of Niepce in 1833.
Daguerre, continuing his experiments, discovered eventually the process connected with his name. This, as he described it, consists of five operations: the polishing of the silver plate; the coating of the plate with iodide of silver by submitting it for about 20 minutes to the action of iodine vapor; the projection of the image of the object upon the golden-colored iodized surface; the development of the latent image by means of the vapor of mercury; and, lastly, the fixing of the picture by immersing the plate in a solution of sodium “hyposulphite” (sodium thiosulphate).
On the 9th of January 1839, at a meeting of the Academy of Sciences, François Arago dwelt on the importance of the discovery of the daguerreotype; and, in consequence of the representations made by him and Gay-Lussacto the French government, Daguerre was on the 15th of June appointed an officer of the Legion of Honor. On the same day a bill was presented to the chambers, according to the provisions of which Daguerre and the heir of Niepce were to receive annuities of 6000 and 4000 francs respectively, on the condition that their process should be made known to the Academy. The bill having been approved at the meetings of the two chambers on the 9th of July and on the 2nd of August, Daguerre’s process, together with his system of transparent and opaque painting, was published by the government, and soon became generally known. Daguerre wrote a memoir,Historique et description des procédés du daguerréotype et du diorama (Paris, 1839), and another work,Nouveau moyen de préparer la couche sensible des plaques destinées à recevoir les images photographiques (Paris, 1844).