Timeline: 1800-1860

A History of Astrophotography - the Condensed Version: 1800-1860

Extracts from 'Catchers of the Light' - a History of Astrophotography.

1800; Thomas Wedgwood (1771-1805); produces 'sun pictures' by placing opaque objects on leather treated with silver nitrate. The resulting images deteriorated rapidly.

1804; Thomas Wedgewood; in 2008 one of the major historians of early British photography, Dr Larry J Schaaf, has suggested at length that a surviving photogenic drawing of a leaf formerly attributed to William Fox Talbot, could in fact be by Thomas Wedgwood, and might date from 1804 or 1805.

1816; Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) combines the camera obscura with photosensitive paper.

1825; Joseph Nicephore Niepce; in 2002, an earlier surviving photograph which had been taken by Niépce was found in a French photograph collection. The photograph was found to have been taken in 1825, and it was an image of an engraving of a young boy leading a horse into a stable. The photograph itself later sold for 450,000 Euros at an auction to the French National Library.

1826; Joseph Niépce produces the first permanent image (Heliograph) using a camera obscura and white bitumen. It shows a view out of a window over roof tops at the Niepce chateau at Le Gras, France. Prior to 2002 it was thought to be the oldest surviving photograph.

1829; Joseph Niepce & Louis Daguerre; sign a ten year agreement to work in partnership developing their new recording medium.

1834; Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877); creates permanent (negative) images using paper soaked in silver chloride and fixed with a salt solution. Talbot created positive images by contact printing onto another sheet of paper. Talbot’s 'The Pencil of Nature', published in six instalments between 1844 and 1846 was the first book to be illustrated entirely with photographs.

1837; Louis Daguerre creates images on silver-plated copper, coated with silver iodide and developed' with warmed mercury. These were the first examples of the Daguerreotype photographic process.

1839; Louis Daguerre patents the Daguerreotype. The Daguerreotype process is released for general use in return for annual state pensions given to Daguerre and Isidore Niépce (Joseph Nicephore Niepce's son): 6000 and 4000 francs respectively.

1839; John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871); uses for the first time the term ‘Photography’ (meaning writing with light).

1839; Louis Daguerre; takes the first unsuccessful Daguerreotype of the moon obtained by Daguerre. His image was blurred and required a long exposure.

1839; François Jean Dominique Arago (1786-1853); announces the daguerreotype process at the French Academy of Sciences (January, 7 and August, 19). Arago predicts the future use of the photographic technique in the fields of selenography, photometry and spectroscopy.

1840; John William Draper (1811-1882); obtains the first successful (correctly exposed) daguerreotype of the moon using a 6-inch (13 cm) reflector with a long focal length and 20 min exposures.

1841; William Henry Fox Talbot patents his process under the name Calotype.

1842; Giovanni Majocchi obtains the first photograph of the partial phase of a solar eclipse on a daguerreotype on 8th of July 1842, with a 2 minute exposure.

1845; Armand Fizeau & Jean Foucault; according to Francois Arago, a large number of daguerreotypes of the sun were obtained by Armand Hippolyte Louis Fizeau (1819-1896) and Jean Bernard Léon Foucault (1819-1868) at the Paris observatory. One of these photographs, taken on the 2nd of April 1845, still survives.

1849; William Cranch Bond (1789-1859) and John Adams Whipple (1822-1891) obtain a series of lunar daguerreotypes with the 15-inch (38 cm) Harvard refractor with 40 second exposures during the period 1849 to 1852.

1850; John Adams Whipple & George Phillips Bond; the first Daguerreotype photograph of a star (a Lyrae, Vega) was obtained on the 17th July, 1850, by John Adams Whipple and George Phillips Bond using the 15-inch (38 cm) Harvard refractor and a100 second exposure.

1851; Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857), improves photographic resolution by spreading a mixture of collodion (nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol) and chemicals on sheets of glass. wet plate collodion photography was much cheaper than daguerreotypes. His negative-positive process permitted unlimited reproductions. The process was published but not patented.

1851; M Berkowski; obtains first daguerreotype of a total eclipse of the Sun obtained, recording the inner corona and several prominences on 28th July 1851.

1851; Angelo Secchi (1818-1878) records Daguerreotypes of the partial phases of a solar eclipse with a 162 mm refractor of 2.5 m focal length.

1851; John Adams Whipple; On the 22nd of March 1851, George Phillips Bond recorded in his notebook: 'Succeeded in Daguerreotyping Jupiter. Six plates were taken by Whipple and could distinguish the two principal equatorial belts – Time about as long as the Moon required or not much longer’. This pre-dates the planetary images of the Henry Brothers (1885-6) by over 30 years.

1852; Warren de La Rue; first wet plate collodion images of the Moon were obtained by Warren de la Rue (1815-1889) using a 13-inch (33 cm) reflector with 10-feet (3.05 m) focal length, on a mount without a clock drive.

1855; Alphonse Poitevin invents the Collotype Process. The collotype plate is made by coating a plate of glass or metal with a substrate composed of gelatin or other colloid and hardening it. Then it is coated with a thick coat of dichromated gelatine and dried carefully at a controlled temperature, of a little over 50 degrees Celsius)

1856; Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816-1892) photographs the Moon and the Sun using an achromatic refractor of 11.25-inches (28.5 cm) aperture over a two year period from 1856 to 1858.

1857; George Philips Bond (1825-1865), the son of William Cranch Bond, produces wet collodion photographs of the double star Mizar (Zeta UMa) and Alcor (80 UMa) using the 15-inch (38 cm) Harvard refractor.

1857; Warren de la Rue obtains images of Jupiter and Saturn with a 13-inch (33 cm) reflector. The exposures, 12 seconds for Jupiter and 60 seconds for Saturn were unsuccessful. The planet images measured only 1/2 mm on the plate.

1858; Warren de la Rue tries to image Comet Donati without success.

1858; William Usherwood a commercial photographer from Walton-on-the Hill, Surrey, records the Donati's Comet with a 7 seconds exposure.

1858; George Phillips Bond shows that the magnitude of stars could be derived from astronomical photographs, i.e. stellar photometry.

1858; Daily images of the Sun (weather permitting) using Warren de la Rue's Kew Photoheliograph. A total of 2778 Sun photographs were obtained between the years 1862 and 1872.

1860; Warren de la Rue produces wet collodion photographs of the total eclipse of the Sun from Rivabellosa, Spain on the 18th of July 1860 with the Kew photoheliograph, using 60 second exposures.

Part 2: 1861-1900.

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About the author

Stefan Hughes began his career as a professional astronomer, gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Astronomy from the University of Leicester in 1974 and his PhD four years later on the 'Resonance Orbits of Artificial Satellites due to Lunisolar Perturbations', which was published as a series of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. After graduating he became a Research fellow in Astronomy, followed by a spell as a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Queen Mary College, London. Then came a ten year long career as an IT Consultant. In 'mid life' he spent several years retraining as a Genealogist, Record Agent and Architectural Historian, which he practiced for a number of years before moving to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where for the past ten years he has been imaging the heavens, as well as researching and writing the 'Catchers of the Light' - A History of Astrophotography.