John Adamson


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(1809–70), Scottish surgeon and photographer, the eldest of ten children of Rachel Melville and Alexander Adamson, farmer at Burnside near St Andrews. Educated in St Andrews and Edinburgh, he became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1829. In 1835, after gaining practical experience abroad, Adamson returned to practise medicine in St Andrews. This left him time to do a little chemistry teaching in the local school between 1837 and 1840; he subsequently took classes for the terminally ill chemistry professor. He also became acquainted with the internationally renowned scientist Sir David Brewster, principal since 1838 of one of the university colleges. Brewster's correspondence with Henry Talbot allowed a group of enthusiasts in St Andrews to master the new science of negative-positive photography. One of its leading exponents, Adamson taught his younger brother Robert. After the latter left for Edinburgh in 1843, Adamson continued with photography, although as his medical practice prospered he spent less time with this. Having been (by repute) a competent daguerreotypist, he became proficient with the wet-collodion process, although strictly an amateur.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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