Nicephore Niepce

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THERE is an error in one of your “Notes” of last week which you may be glad to have corrected. It is not to Niepce de St. Victor that the citizens of Chalons-sur-Saône (a town, by the way, not to be mistaken for Chalons in the Champagne country) are about to erect a statue, but to his uncle, Joseph Nicephore Niepce, who might well be designated as the first photographer, since he it was who succeeded first of all in fixing an image in the camera. In a “Life of Nicephore Niepce,” 1 recently published by Victor Fouqué, appear letters which leave little doubt that in May, 1816 Niepce had accomplished the feat of fixing shadows in the camera, for in a communication of that date to his brother he incloses four photographs, of which he says: “The pigeon-house is reversed on the pictures, the barn, or rather the roof of the barn, being to the left, instead or the right. The white mass which you perceive to the right of the pigeon-house, and which appears somewhat confused, is the reflection upon the paper of the pear-tree, and the black spot near the summit is an opening between the branches of the trees. The shadow on the right indicates the roof of the bakehouse.” This, then, is a description of the first camera-picture ever taken, and it was by reason of Niepce's inability to prevent his impressions from fading after a lapse of time that he turned his attention to the bitumen of Judea process, with which he produced photographs as early as 1824, one or two specimens being still among the science treasures of the British Museum.

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PRITCHARD, H. Nicephore Niepce. Nature 16, 142 (1877) doi:10.1038/016142b0

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