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Louis Daguerre, photography pioneer, honored with Google doodle

Louis Daguerre's 224th birthday is celebrated with a Google family portrait.

By / November 18, 2011

Google celebrates what would have been Louis Daguerre's 224th birthday in a Daguerre-style family portrait.

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Happy posthumous birthday to Louis Daguerre, who would have turned 224 today. 

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Daguerre is the man who inspired today's Google doodle. Mr. Daguerre was a French painter, physicist, and pioneer in photography. 

In the mid-1820s, Daguerre was looking for a way to capture permanent images that he saw in his camera – a large box with a lens on one end that shined an image on a frosted sheet of glass at the other. But nailing the chemistry took a lot of work. 

First, he invented the Diorama in 1822, which was used to showcase theatrical painting and lighting effects.

In 1826, fellow Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took a photograph of a barn, but the process took an eight-hour exposure. Daguerre formed a partnership with Niépce, according to the Franklin Institute, and ten years later learned how to permanently reproduce the same image in only twenty minutes.

Daguerreotype photography was born. (The name, of course, refers to Daguerre himself.) Each unique photographic image was made on a silver-coated sheet of copper exposed to iodine, developed in heated mercury fumes, and fixed with salt water.

Using Daguerre's photography method, naturally-moving subjects needed to remain completely still because the long exposure would take several minutes to allow the slower process to be able to capture – and focus on – the image. At least it wasn't eight hours. If a subject was to move during the process, they would appear like a blurry ghost, or perhaps disappear from the frame altogether. This is why, in the early days, Daguerre's landscapes did not contain any people. The process took too long for most people. 

As faster lenses were invented, so came with it the ability to make portraits and not just landscapes. 

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