Silver 2 Sensor : Episode 3 ( The Tiphaigne conception )

In the Last episode , we saw how 14th century had brought a revolution with the invention of Lens , diaphragm and photochemicals like silver nitrate and silver chloride. But we haven’t discussed what photochemicals are and what photochemical effect is.

In 1694, William Homberg explained that some chemical compounds get darkened when they are exposed to light. This is called photochemical effect. The amount of darkening may vary in accordance with the intensity of the light that is falling on it.

But as I said earlier, after the 14th century photography hasn’t seen much of a development for a long time. But a literary fiction work named “Giphantie”, published in 1760, by French author Tiphaigne de la Roche, described what can be interpreted as photography.

The lines were:

“You know, that rays of light reflected from different bodies form pictures, paint the image reflected on all polished surfaces, for example, on the retina of the eye, on water, and on glass. The spirits have sought to fix these fleeting images; they have made a subtle matter by means of which a picture is formed in the twinkling of an eye. They coat a piece of canvas with this matter, and place it in front of the object to be taken. The first effect of this cloth is similar to that of a mirror, but by means of its viscous nature the prepared canvas, as is not the case with the mirror, retains a facsimile of the image. The mirror represents images faithfully, but retains none; our canvas reflects them no less faithfully, but retains them all. This impression of the image is instantaneous. The canvas is then removed and deposited in a dark place. An hour later the impression is dry, and you have a picture the more precious in that no art can imitate its truthfulness.”

The scanned copy of the book can be found here:

Part I –

Part II-

(Tiphaigne also visualized many other concepts like synthetic food and television which was far ahead of his time)

When you read the whole passage, you can see that Tiphaigne tried to conceive and visualize the concept of how photography will be done in future. The details even include the idea of dark room processing. This would’ve served as the key to many people who were thinking about what to do with the photochemicals.

According to me, these words have brought all the transformations to the modern day film technology which lasted for more than two centuries.

But the actual use of silver salts came in the beginning of 1800’s.

A man named Thomas Wedgwood, who was born in a wealthy potter family, in Staffordshire, England had a keen interest in teaching young minds and he started observing the activities of children. His aim was to find a best method to educate the children. So he thought observing them would help him find a way to achieve what he wanted.

After spending so much time, he found that most of the information that young brains absorbed came through the eyes, and were thus related to light and pictures.  So he tried to experiment with silver salts in order to create permanent pictures by the use of light. He believed that it will serve as a good aid for teaching. But instead, these attempts helped him to invent film technology.

Most of his initial attempts were unsuccessful. Even though he had some initial success, he was not getting desired outcomes. One day when Thomas visited a hospital he met this young chemist named Humphry Davy who had a much better understanding of silver salts and their usage

What they did together opened the gates for a photographic revolution

We will dig deep in the coming episodes

[Image : Thomas Wedgwood Source: Wikipedia ]

To be continued…

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