Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who's the Daddy?

It's quiz time...

Who's considered the father of portrait photography?

Answer: Samual Morse. That's right, the man that's known for inventing the telegraph, actually played a significant role in the development of photography. From The History and Practice of the Art of Photography:

It is to Professor Samuel F. B. Morse, the distinguished inventor of the Magnetic Telegraph, of New York, that we are indebted for the application of Photography, to portrait taking. He was in Paris, for the purpose of presenting to the scientific world his Electro-Magnetic Telegraph, at the time, (1838,) M. Daguerre announced his splendid discovery, and its astounding results having an important bearing on the arts of design arrested his attention. In his letter to me on the subject, the Professor gives the following interesting facts.

"The process was a secret, and negociations were then in progress, for the disclosure of it to the public between the French government and the distinguished discoverer. M. Daguerre had shown his results to the king, and to a few only of the distinguished savans, and by the advice of M. Arago, had determined to wait the action of the French Chambers, before showing them to any other persons. I was exceedingly desirous of seeing them, but knew not how to approach M. Daguerre who was a stranger to me. On mentioning my desire to Robert Walsh, Esq., our worthy Consul, he said to me; 'state that you are an American, the inventor of the Telegraph, request to see them, and invite him in turn to see the Telegraph, and I know enough of the urbanity and liberal feelings of the French, to insure you an invitation.' I was successfull in my application, and with a young friend, since deceased, the promising son of Edward Delevan, Esq., I passed a most delightful hour with M. Daguerre, and his enchanting sun-pictures. My letter containing an account of this visit, and these pictures, was the first announcement in this country of this splendid discovery."

"I may here add the singular sequel to this visit. On the succeeding day M. Daguerre paid me a visit to see the Telegraph and witness its operations. He seemed much gratified and remained with me perhaps two hours; two melancholy hours to him, as they afterwards proved; or while he was with me, his buildings, including his diorama, his studio, his laboratory, with all the beautiful pictures I had seen the day before, were consumed by fire. Fortunately for mankind, matter only was consumed, the soul and mind of the genius, and the process were still in existence."

On his return home, Professor Morse waited with impatience for the revelation of M. Daguerre's process, and no sooner was it published than he procured a copy of the work containing it, and at once commenced taking Daguerreotype pictures. At first his object was solely to furnish his studio with studies from nature; but his experiments led him into a belief of the practicability of procuring portraits by the process, and he was undoubtedly the first whose attempts were attended with success. Thinking, at that time, that it was necessary to place the sitters in a very strong light, they were all taken with their eyes closed.

In this case, it was Morse's fame that let him get a glimpse of the cutting edge photo tech of the day. Alas, I wasn't able to turn up any photos that Morse took (eyes closed, or not), but I did find this collection of journal pages:

Learn more here and here.

Who's considered the father of TV?

I know that Morse invented the telegraph, Marconi the radio, Edison the phonograph and Alexander Graham Bell telephone. But who's considered the father of TV?

As we were driving through DC this weekend we passed Rock Creek Cemetery. As I perused their list of famous residents I came across this line:

Who the heck is Charles Truman Jenkins?

It took a bit of digging, but I realized that I was actually looking for Charles Francis Jenkins, the inventor of Radiovision. He actually broadcast images using a radio station in Wheaton, MD (or was it in DC?), W3XK. We've come quite a distance from the first TV's:

Radiovisors were mechanical scanning-drum devices manufactured by the Jenkins Television Corporation, as part of their radiovision system. Founded in 1928, the Jenkins Television Corporation sold several thousand sets to the public that cost between $85 and $135. The radiovisor was a multitube radio set that had a special attachment for receiving pictures, a cloudy 40 to 48 line image projected onto a six-inch square mirror. Charles Jenkins preferred the names radiovisor and radiovision over television.

Still, that must have been one heck of a sight to see!

Unfortunately, I can't find any vintage Radiovision videos. But, you can check out the patent for the Radio vision mechanism:

In fact, many of Charle Jenkin's Patents are quite interesting.He seemed to have an interest not only in broadcasting content (like say, billboard radio picture receiver), but also in enhancing airplane technology (like his refueling airplanes mid flight patent).

It's actually pretty remarkable, he certainly saw the world as it is today (where billboards are in fact remote controlled, and military inflight refueling is the norm) 75 years ago. Not too shabby.

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