William Henry Fox Talbot

  • 1800 - 1877
  • Maker, Photographer, Responsible party
  • English

In 1833, after failed attempts at drawing using the camera lucida, an optical tool, William Henry Fox Talbot wrote: "[H]ow charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably, and remain fixed upon the paper!" Talbot, a scientist, mathematician, and author, is credited with being one of the inventors of photography. In mid-1834 he began to experiment with light-sensitive chemistry, corresponding with the preeminent astronomer and scientist Sir John Herschel about their mutual photographic discoveries.

By 1835 Talbot had placed his photographic investigations on hold to pursue other interests. Not wanting to be outdone, however, Talbot announced his invention of the photogenic drawing in January 1839, two weeks after Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre's daguerreotype process was introduced in France. Talbot's negative/positive process, the calotype, was introduced in 1840. His invention, which shortened exposure times and allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative, became the basis for photography as it is practiced today.

From 1844 to 1846, Talbot published The Pencil of Nature, the first commercially published book to be illustrated with photographs. Issued in six installments, it contained twenty-four calotype prints with accompanying explanatory text.