Joseph Nicéphore Niépce


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(1765–1833) French inventor

Niepce, who made the first permanent photographic image, came from a wealthy family in Châlon-sur-Saône, eastern France, that fled the French Revolution. He returned to serve with Napoleon Bonaparte's army, but after being dismissed because of ill health, went back to his birthplace (1801) to do scientific research.

With his brother, Niepce built an internal-combustion engine (1807) for boats using carbon and resin for fuel. In 1813 he started the attempt to record images, on paper coated with silver chloride. He produced his first image, a view from his workroom, in 1816, but was only able to fix this partially with nitric acid. In 1822 he produced a photographic copy of an engraving using a glass plate coated with bitumen of Judea. Later (1826) he used a pewter plate to make the first permanent camera photograph. He also devised the first mechanical reproduction process. The main difficulty was the long exposure times needed – over eight hours. Niepce formed a partnership with the Parisian painter, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1826 to perfect the process of heliography but he died before seeing the final success of his efforts.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs — Science and Mathematics.

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