Frederick Scott Archer

by catcher Tuesday, June 5, 2012 8:58 PM

'The Chemist'

Born: 30th August 1814; Hertford, Hertfordshire, England
Died: 1st May 1857; Bloomsbury, London, England

Frederick Scott Archer (FSA) was without doubt one of the great pioneers of early photography, whose name should without doubt stand near to, if not alongside the likes of Joseph Nicephore, Niepce, Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot.

The publication of his discovery in 1851 of the so called wet collodion process revolutionized photography, making it easier to obtain images with exposures of a few seconds only, and which also enabled multiple positive copies to be quickly made from the same glass negative plate; unlike the Daguerreotype process which produced a one off positive image on a silvered copper plate which could not be readily replicated. The Wet Collodion Plate was the preferred photographic process from its introduction in the early 1850s until the advent of the mass produced Dry Gelatin Plate in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

The importance of Archer’s work to Photography was recognized by Lady Margaret Huggins, when in her 1889 obituary of the great pioneering Astrophotographer Warren De La Rue she wrote of the Collodion Process:

"In 1851 Scott Archer and Dr. Diamond introduced the collodion process in practical form, and this finally prepared the way for such a worker as Mr. De La Rue; for the introduction of the collodion process was an event in photography second only in importance to the discovery by Daguerre in 1839."

Yet at the time of his death in 1857, although well respected by his photographic colleagues, he was largely unrecognised by the rest of the public at large; certainly unrewarded and definitely in impoverished circumstances. Even today he is not as well known as the other early photographic pioneers. The 150th Anniversary of his death in 2007 came and went largely unnoticed by the world, despite ample opportunity in the years since his death for historians to reassess his contribution to the development of photography.

To read more on his life and work read the eBook chapter on Frederick Scott Archer, or buy the Book 'Catchers of the Light'.

Frederick Scott Archer's Grave, Kensal Green Cemetery, London, Photograph Courtesy of Sean MacKenna

Buy the eBook or Printed Book at the 'Catchers of the Light' shop.


Pioneers of Astrophotography

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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.