Henry Fox Talbot Biography

William Henry Fox Talbot was a British scientist best known for inventing the salted paper and calotype processes. This biography of William Henry Fox Talbot provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline

Quick Facts

Birthday: February 11, 1800

Nationality: British

Famous: Scientists British Men

Died At Age: 77

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: William Henry Fox Talbot, William Fox Talbot

Born in: Dorset

Famous as: Inventor

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Spouse/Ex-: Constance Fox Talbot

father: William Davenport Talbot

mother: Elisabeth Fox Strangways

Died on: September 17, 1877

place of death: Lacock

discoveries/inventions: Photographic Engraving, Calotype, Photoglyphic Engraving

More Facts

education: Trinity College, Cambridge, Harrow School

awards: 1842 - Rumford Medal
1838 - Royal Medal

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William Henry Fox Talbot was a British scientist and photography pioneer best known for inventing the salted paper and calotype processes. He was a true polymath with interests in myriad subjects like chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, classics, and art history, though he ultimately achieved fame as a pioneer in the field of photography which was still in its infancy in the mid-19th century. His invention, the photographic process of calotype was an improvement over the daguerreotype of the French inventor L.J.M. Daguerre. Talbot was the first to have developed the photographic negative, from which multiple prints could be made. During the 1840s he worked extensively on photomechanical reproduction which led to the development of the photoglyphic engraving process. Intelligent and curious from a young age, he developed interests in a variety of subjects as a boy. After completing his education from the prestigious Trinity College, Cambridge, he wrote several papers which he submitted to the Royal Society. Artistically inclined with a passion for chemistry he embarked on a series of experiments in photography. Over the next few years he made several important contributions to the field of photography, of which the most significant ones were the invention of the salted paper and photographic negative. He was awarded by the Royal Society for his photographic discoveries

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Childhood & Early Life
  • He began his optical researches as a young man and contributed a paper titled ‘Some Experiments on Coloured Flame’ to the ‘Edinburgh Philosophical Journal’ in 1826 and a paper on ‘Monochromatic Light’ to the ‘Quarterly Journal of Science’ in 1827. He also wrote several papers on chemical subjects for the ‘Philosophical Magazine’.
  • While visiting the Lake Como in Italy in 1833 he tried to sketch the scenery but failed to capture its beauty. So he began to think of a machine which could capture images on light-sensitive paper. He set to work on this project upon his return home.
  • He briefly served in Parliament (1833–34) and spent much of the 1830s in experimenting in photography. He created the “salt paper” by wetting a sheet of paper with a solution of ordinary table salt which he brushed with a strong solution of silver nitrate upon drying. This made the paper light sensitive and it darkened when exposed to light.
  • He went on to develop a photographic process which he called Calotype. This method, which used paper coated with silver iodide, was considered to be an improvement over the process of daguerreotype developed earlier by Daguerre. He had this process patented in 1841.
  • His work, ‘The Pencil of Nature’ (1844–46), published in six installments, is regarded as an important and influential work in the history of photography. It was the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs. He was also the author of several other works, including ‘English Etymologies’ (1846).
Major Works
  • In spite of being a brilliant polymath, Talbot achieved the maximum fame as a pioneer in photography. He invented the salted paper through a series of experiments and this paper, which darkened where it was exposed to light, could be used to create images known as “salt prints”.
  • Another one of his major inventions was the Calotype—also known as talbotype after him—an early photographic process that produced a translucent original negative image from which multiple positives could be made by simple contact printing.
Awards & Achievements
  • In 1838, he received a Royal Medal in mathematics “For his papers entitled Researches in the Integral Calculus, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1836 and 1837."
  • Talbot received the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society for his photographic discoveries in 1842.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Henry Fox Talbot married Constance Mundy in 1832 and had four children: Ela, Rosamond, Matilda, and Charles.
  • William Henry Fox Talbot was plagued by ill health during his later years and died on 17 September 1877, at the age of 77.

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How To Cite

Article Title
- Henry Fox Talbot Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- November 13, 2017
Henry Fox Talbot

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