British photographic history

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Lecture: John Herschel: Optician, Natural Philosopher & Astronomer by Inheritance

The annual William Herschel Society President's Lecture will take place on Saturday, 14 March 2015 at 7pm at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square,Bath BA1 2HN. It will be given by Dr Alan Chapman, Wadham College, Oxford, titled: John Herschel: Optician, Natural Philosopher & Astronomer by Inheritance.  

Sir John Herschel was a scientist and astronomer like his father, Sir William Herschel. In 1809 he entered the University of Cambridge; in 1812 he submitted his first mathematical paper to the Royal Society, of which he was elected a Fellow the following year. An accomplished chemist, Herschel discovered the action of hyposulfite of soda on otherwise insoluble silver salts in 1819, which led to the use of "hypo" as a fixing agent in photography. In 1839, independently of William Henry Fox Talbot, Herschel also invented a photographic process using sensitized paper. It was Herschel who coined the use of the terms photography, positive, and negative to refer to photographic images. In 1820 Herschel became a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society. From 1833 until 1838, his astronomical investigations brought him and his family to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where he met Julia Margaret Cameron, who became a lifelong friend. In 1850 Herschel was appointed master of the Mint, but he resigned six years later due to poor health. His remaining years were spent working on his catalogues of double stars and of nebulae and star clusters.

Allan Chapman has been based at Oxford University for most of his career, as a member of the Faculty of History, Wadham College. He is an accomplished lecturer and public speaker (including as visiting professor at Gresham College in London). In January 1994, he delivered the Royal Society History of Science Wilkins Lecture, on the subject of Edmund Halley.

He is also a television presenter, notably 'Gods in the Sky', covering astronomical religion in early civilisations, and 'Great Scientists', presenting the lives of five of the greatest thinkers. Not averse to other forms of television, he also participated in the TV quiz 'University Challenge – The Professionals' as part of the Royal Astronomical Society team, broadcast in June–July 2006

Tickets on the door: Students £4, Visitors £5


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