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William K. L. Dickson

William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (August 3, 1860–September 28, 1935) was a Scottish inventor who is credited with the invention of the motion picture camera under the employ of Thomas Edison.

Dickson was born in Minihic-Sur-Rance, Brittany, France. His father, James Waite Dickson, was an artist, astronomer and linguist, claiming direct lineage from the painter William Hogarth, and from Judge John Waite, the man who sentenced King Charles I to death. His mother, Elizabeth Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, was a gifted musician, related to the Lauries of Maxwellton (immortalised in the ballad Annie Laurie) and connected with the Duke of Atholl and the Royal Stuarts.

Dickson’s invention, the Kinetoscope, was simple: a strip of several images was passed in front of an illuminated lens and behind a spinning wheel. In fact, Edison saw very little value in the contraption, but thought that it might be served to endorse his phonograph.

On January 7, 1894, Dickson received a patent for motion picture film. Shortly afterwards, after a great deal of debate with Edison and West Orange film colleague Jonathan Campbell, Dickson switched from the 19 mm width, single sprocket film he was using, to the more stable 35 mm double-sided sprocket film. Edison didn't see the need or benefit for redesigning the equipment to accept the larger negative, but Dickson and Campbell believed it was essential if the technology was to advance.

Today's standard is still 35 mm double-sided sprocket film. In 1895, Dickson left Edison to form the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, before returning permanently to work in the United Kingdom in 1897.

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