Louis Daguerre and his daguerreotype saluted by Google

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Louis Daguerre is honored in today’s Google Doodle. Daguerre is a photography pioneer -- and ‘magic’ maker -- of the early 1800s. He’s is the man behind the daguerreotype, the first photography process that was remotely practical or reliable.

Daguerre, born 224 years ago on Nov. 18, 1787, was a painter, a physicist and a dreamer who wanted to somehow capture those images he saw in his camera obscura. In the City of Light, he established what was called the Diorama, an exhibition in which he experimented with theatrical painting and lighting effects.

But the daguerreotype image and the process behind it was his ultimate triumph. In 1839, it was unveiled before members of the scientific and arts communities and a large crowd of eager spectators. The group was treated to ‘astonishingly precise pictures’ on a polished, silver-plated sheet of copper.

‘The process revealed on that day seemed magical,’ according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


But Daguerre didn’t create the first permanent photograph.

That was Nicéphore Niépce. He came up with a process in 1826 or ’27, but the process took eight hours and, once done, the picture was of poor quality.

Niépce heard about Daguerre, looked him up, and the two became partners in 1829. It wasn’t until after Niépce’s death in 1833 that Daguerre’s continued experiments resulted in the daguerreotype.

Daguerre gained fame and fortune in France for his invention. He became an officer of the Legion of Honor and received an annual annuity. But his legacy was basically wiped out when the Diorama burned to the ground in 1839, taking with it Daguerre’s lab and notes and records on his early experiments. Today, only about 25 of his photographs survive.


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