William Henry Fox Talbot

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Talbot, William Henry Fox,

1800–1877, English inventor of photographic processes (see photography, stillphotography, still,
science and art of making permanent images on light-sensitive materials.

See also photographic processing; motion picture photography; motion pictures.
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). A man of enormously versatile intelligence, he invented the "photogenic drawing" process in 1834. From 1841 on he patented his numerous processes for making negatives and positive prints, called calotypes and later talbotypes. His patents threatened to impede the technical progress of the medium and Talbot was forced to release his processes. His relationships with other early photographers and photographic inventors were very bitter. Talbot wrote The Pencil of Nature (1844), one of the first books illustrated with photographs. Interested also in archaeology, he was one of the first to decipher the cuneiform inscriptions at Nineveh.


See studies by A. Jammes (1974) and L. J. Schaaf (2000).

Talbot, William Henry Fox


Born Feb. 11, 1800, in Melbury House, Dorsetshire; died Sept. 17, 1877, near Chippenham, Wiltshire. English scientist and pioneer of photography. Member of the London Royal Society (1831).

Talbot, who was educated at Cambridge University, made known his discovery of the principles of photography in 1839. In 1841 he developed the calotype process, which consisted in recording an image on a light-sensitive layer that covered a sheet of paper (the negative), rather than a metal plate, as in the daguerreotype, and then transferring the image to another sheet of paper (the positive). In 1843, for the first time, he enlarged a positive print. By developing such a comparatively simple and inexpensive negative-to-positive method, Talbot opened the way to mass production in photography. He described his invention in The Pencil of Nature (1844), which he illustrated with his own photographs. Talbot also wrote works on physics, mathematics, astronomy, and archaeology.


[Evgenov, S. V.] Dager, N’eps, Tal’bot: Populiarnyi ocherk ob izobretateliakh fotografii. Moscow, 1938.