1.27.10 "Light and Lightning" - The Daguerreotype and Science

The daguerreotype, the photographic process created by Frenchman Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre in the mid 1830's, reigned supreme from 1839 through the 1850's. The dangerous process (which often caused severe sickness because it relied on the heating of mercury vapor) produced "a whitish amalgram of silver and mercury formed on a plate where it had been exposed to light." It saw rapid growth, as the masses gained access to photography; "the daguerreotype was the great equalizer, providing ordinary people wiht access to pictures of themselves and their loved ones."

By the mid-1800's, the scientific application of photography emerged. The dawn of optical devices like the microscope and telescope changed how people perceived the world, and photographers began to use photography as a way to record the natural world. During the 1840's William H. Goode made daguerreotypes from a solar microscope. In 1851, John Adams Whipple created the first successful daguerreotype of the moon by using a telescope. Around the same time T.M. Easterly, a photographer from St. Louis, captured lightning with a daguerreotype. The above photo displays the image that Easterly captured.

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