British photographic history

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Event: Celebrating Charles Wheatstone / Gloucester, 6 February 2022

The Museum of Gloucester is celebrating the two hundred and twenty-first anniversary of the birth of polymath Charles Wheatstone in Barnwood, near Gloucester. Although his name is still remembered all over the world, Wheatstone never got the credit he really deserves. This prolific inventor, musical instrument maker and professor of experimental philosophy was a shy person and, unlike some of his contemporaries and their modern equivalents, never blew his own trumpet.

Whilst some inventions which he helped promote have been wrongly attributed to him, others have been credited to somebody else and history has not been kind in honouring him. There are no monuments to him, no statues to remember his achievements by, and even his grave in Bethnal Green is so undistinctive that it is difficult to find.

Photo historian Denis Pellerin, from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy, will take you on a three dimensional journey to discover the inventor of Stereoscopy (which we now call 3D) and show how this invention, which, strangely enough, Wheatstone never considered as his most important, changed the way the Victorians perceived the world around them. Stereoscopy gave birth to a craze which may not have lasted very long but produced millions of amazing images and has been through several revivals since it first started back in the 1850s.

Nearly two hundred years after its discovery, Stereoscopy is not only the magic carpet it was for Wheatstone’s contemporaries, taking them to far away places without leaving their fireside; it has also become a wonderful time machine, showing us the Victorians, famous or anonymous, as they really were, in a way no traditional photographs can.

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