Theosophical Encyclopedia

HPB and PHOTOGRAPHY - Sometimes A Thin Line Between Lunacy and Genius


Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851) was a French artist and photographer, recognized for his invention of the eponymous daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography


The Daguerreotype camera 


HPB and

The Daguerreotype camera captured the first ever picture of a human being, at Boulevard du Temple in Paris, in 1838.The patent was publicly announced on the 19th of August, 1839, when the French government presented the Daguerreotype process as a gift "free to the world". 1839 has since been the official birth year of photography.

[Following is  excerpt from: HPB’s Isis Unveiled, Vol. ll, pg. 619 – i.e. a footnote]

There was an anecdote current among Daguerre's friends between 1838 and 1840. At an evening party, Madame Daguerre, some two months previous to the introduction of the celebrated Daguerrean process to the Academie des Sciences, by Arago (January, 1839), had an earnest consultation with one of the medical celebrities of the day about her husband's mental condition. After explaining to the physician the numerous symptoms of what she believed to be her husband's mental aberration, she added, with tears in her eyes, that the greatest proof to her of Daguerre's insanity was his firm conviction that he would succeed in nailing his own shadow to the wall, or fixing it on magical metallic plates. The physician listened to the intelligence very attentively, and answered that he had himself observed in Daguerre lately the strongest symptoms of what, to his mind, was an undeniable proof of madness. He closed the conversation by firmly advising her to send her husband quietly and without delay to Bicetre, the well-known lunatic asylum. Two months later a profound interest was created in the world of art and science by the exhibition of a number of pictures taken by the new process. The shadows were fixed, after all, upon metallic plates, and the "lunatic" proclaimed the father of photography.

Contribution by David M. Grossman


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