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William Henry Fox Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot (February 11, 1800 - September 17, 1877) was one of the first photographers and made major contributions to the photographic process. He is also remembered as the holder of a patent which affected the early development of photography in England.

Talbot was the only child of William Davenport Talbot, of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, and of Lady Elizabeth Fox Strangways, daughter of the 2nd earl of Ilchester. He was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained the Person prize in 1820, and graduated as twelfth wrangler in 1821. From 1822 to
1872 he frequently communicated papers to the Royal Society, many of them on mathematical subjects. At an early period he had begun his optical researches, which were to have such important results in connection with photography. To the Edinburgh Journal of Science in 1826 he contributed a paper on "Some Experiments on Colored Flame"; to the Quarterly Journal of Science in 1827 a paper on "Monochromatic Light"; and to the Philosophical Magazine a number of papers on chemical subjects, including one on "Chemical Changes of Colour."

Talbot engaged in photographic experiments before Louis Daguerre exhibited in 1839 his pictures taken by the sun. After Daguerre's discovery was announced (without details), Talbot showed his four year old pictures at the Royal Institution on 25 January 1839. Within a fortnight, he freely communicated the technical details of his photogenic drawing process to the Royal Society - Daguerre would not reveal the manipulatory details of his process until August. In 1841 Talbot made known his discovery of the calotype or talbotype process. This process reflected the work of many predecessors, including John Herschel and Joseph Reade. Talbot's original contributions included the concept of a negative from which many positive prints can be made (although the terms negative and positive were coined by Herschel), and the use of gallic acid for developing latent image. For his photographic discoveries, which are detailed in his Pencil of Nature (1844), he received in 1842 the Rumford medal of the Royal Society.

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