The sepia-toned Google Doodle today honors the birthday of French inventor Louis Daguerre whose daguerreotype was the first successful form of modern photography. Daguerre was born November 18, 1787 and died July 10, 1851.
Both an artist and physicist, Daguerre also worked as a theater designer, developing the first diorama in 1822. Hoping to improve his diorama, he started working with Joseph Nicéphore Niépce soon after. Niépce had develop the heliograph that sped up print plate development.
From this work the daguerreotype was developed and patented on January 7, 1839, but the patent was acquired by the French government by August 19 of that year. The French government saw the invention as a gift that should be shared with the world for free.
Both Daguerre and Niépce’s son received a pension from the French in return for sharing the process. As Wikipedia noted:
Daguerre first exposed silver-coated copper plates to iodine, obtaining silver iodide. Then he exposed them to light for several minutes, coated the plate with mercury vapor heated to 75º Celsius (to amalgamate the mercury with the silver) and finally fixing the image in salt water. These ideas led to the famous Daguerreotype.
The resultant plate produced an exact reproduction of the scene. The image was laterally reversed — as images in mirrors are — unless a second mirror was used during exposure to flip the image. The image could only be viewed at an angle and needed protection from the air and fingerprints so was encased in a glass-fronted box.
The picture above – Boulevard du Temple – is thought to be the first photograph of a person. Taken by Daguerre, the image had a 10 minute exposure time and at the bottom the man getting a shoe shine and two people at a table nearby stayed still long enough to capture them.