World’s First Photograph
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce
Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world’s first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled View from the Window at Le Gras, at his family’s country home. Niépce produced his photo—a view of a courtyard and outbuildings seen from the house’s upstairs window—by exposing a bitumen-coated plate in a camera obscura for several hours on his windowsill.
First Color Photograph
James Clerk Maxwell
Best known for his development of electromagnetic theory, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell dabbled in color theory throughout his life, eventually producing the first color photograph in 1861. Maxwell created the image of the tartan ribbon shown here by photographing it three times through red, blue, and yellow filters, then recombining the images into one color composite.
First Photos of Movement
The settling of a debate—whether, during its gait, all four of a horse’s hooves are simultaneously off the ground—first spurred English photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1872 to look for a way to capture the sequence of movement. It took six years, but in 1878, Muybridge succeeded. He arranged 12 trip-wire cameras along a racetrack in the path of a galloping horse. The resulting photo sequence proved that there is a point when no hooves touch the ground and set the stage for the first motion pictures.
First Photo of the North Pole
Admiral Robert E. Peary
In April 1909, Admiral Robert Peary and his team (pictured here), including Inuits Ooqeah, Ooatah, Egingwah, and Seeglo and fellow American Matthew Henson, became the first explorers to reach what they believed to be the North Pole. Later studies found that Peary was actually 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) short of the Pole.
First Archaeology Photos
In 1912 Yale University professor and explorer Hiram Bingham was searching in the Peruvian Andes for the ancient Inca capital of Vilcabamba when he and his guide stumbled onto one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. Thanks to his photographs of the lost city of Machu Picchu, Bingham andNational Geographic helped bring archaeology out of the field and into people’s homes.
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