Photographer: Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (Nadar).
Cormeilles-Parisis, France, November 18, 1787-Bry-sur-Marne, France, July 10, 1851
Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre came to be among the men who changed history for having been a pioneer of photography. He was also a talented painter and theater decorator, whose designs and skills for optical illusions took him to work on the Paris Opera itself.
In the 1820s he created the diorama, a three-dimensional model to represent scenes. This invention became tremendously popular and was the main source of income for Daguerre, who also knew popularity in Paris.
In 1826 he met Nicéphore Niepce an inventor who developed the first photographic process, and in 1829 both became associated to work in the use of light and chemistry for fixing images. Niepce died in 1833 but Daguerre continued to experiment with light-sensitive materials.
In 1835 he accidentally discovered a new process for fixing images: he placed in a dark closet a plate that had been exposed in a dark room; after a couple of days, he found on the plate a visible image produced by the effect of mercury vapor from a broken thermometer. He realized that the images could be produced after a short period of exposure and in 1837 he achieved fixation when dipping the plate in a salt water solution.
He named his invention “daguerreotype” and it became public in 1839 through a detailed report at the Academy of Sciences. The government announced that the world was free to use the process and Daguerre obtained a great success that led to the declaration by painter Paul Delaroche: “From today, painting is dead.”
Daguerre published a manual that was published in 32 editions and 8 languages. During the next 20 years the daguerreotype was the photographic process par excellence, until the invention of cheaper and faster ways to produce images of reality.
He was awarded the Legion of Honor and his name is engraved on the list of 72 scientists on the Eiffel Tower.