William Fox Talbot

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William Henry Fox Talbot was a British inventor and a pioneer of photography, born on February 11, 1800 and died on September 17, 1877. He was the inventor of calotype process, the precursor to most photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was also a noted photographer who made major contributions to the development of photography as an artistic medium. His work in the 1840s on photo-mechanical reproduction led to the creation of the photoglyphic engraving process, the precursor to photogravure. Talbot is also remembered as the holder of a patent which, some say, affected the early development of commercial photography in Britain. Additionally, he made some important early photographs of Oxford, Paris, and York.[1]

Talbot was known by his second name Henry, rather than William. It is commonly assumed that "Fox Talbot" is an unhyphenated double-barrelled surname. However, Fox came from his mother's maiden name and was not passed on to his children. Some historians have therefore argued that he should be referred to as 'Talbot' rather than 'Fox Talbot'.[2][3] Nevertheless, although he signed his name as H.F. Talbot as well as H. Fox Talbot, he was most often referred to by his contemporaries as 'Mr Fox Talbot' or 'Mr H Fox Talbot', including by his mother. 'H Fox Talbot' was also the style he chose for his most important publications, including The Pencil of Nature.

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Early life

Talbot was the only child of William Davenport Talbot, of Lacock Abbey, near Chippenham, Wiltshire, and of Lady Elisabeth Fox Strangways, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Ilchester. Talbot was educated at Rottingdean, Harrow School and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was awarded the Porson prize in Classics in 1820, and graduated as twelfth wrangler in 1821.[4] 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 Coloured 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."

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