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Timeline

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1021

Alhazan (965–1040), an Arab physicist, publishes the 7-volume Book of Optics, in which the pinhole camera and camera obscura are described.

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c. 1266

Roger Bacon (1214–92), an English friar based in Paris, outlines the scientific principles of corrective eyeglass lenses (worn by monks and scholars) in his Opus Majus.

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1508

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) illustrates the first concept of contact lenses.

1550s

Gerolamo Cardano (1501–76), an Italian scientist and philosopher, inserts a biconvex lens in his pinhole camera and advances the quality and brightness of camera obscura images.

1558

Italian scholar Giambattista della Porta (1535–1615) publishes first account of using a camera obscura as an aid in drawing.

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1604

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), German scholar and astronomer, is first to use the term “camera obscura” in print in his published work on astronomy, Ad Vitellionem Paralipomena.

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1608

The earliest written record of a refracting telescope appears in a patent filing attributed to German-Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey (1570–1619).

1609

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), Italian astronomer, builds a small telescope with a 1.5”-diameter lens.

1611

Johannes Kepler publishes Dioptrice and describes how improved and higher telescopic magnification could result by using two convex lenses, as opposed to Galileo’s use of concave and convex lenses.

1625

The word “microscope” is first used by German botanist and physician Giovanni Faber (1575-1629).

1668

Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), English physicist, builds the first practical reflecting telescope.

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1669

Newton discovers the composition of light, which leads the way for spectroscopy.

1670

Johannes Hevelius (1611–87), Polish astronomer, builds a 150’-long refracting telescope, hung by ropes from a pole.

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1784

American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) invents bifocal lenses.

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1789

Sir John Herschel (1792–1871), English scientist and photographer, builds a 40’-long telescope.

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c. 1800

Thomas Wedgwood (1771–1805), an early British photographic experimenter, attempts to produce permanent camera-recorded images on surfaces coated with light-sensitive chemicals. He captures only shadows and silhouettes, which he is unable to preserve permanently.

1824

Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833), French inventor, captures the first durable, light-fast photograph on the surface of a lithographic stone, but it is destroyed during subsequent experiments.

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c. 1826-27

Nicéphore Niépce succeeds in making the earliest-known surviving photograph from nature, View from the Window at le Gras, which required an exposure of at least eight hours.

c. 1834

The term “scientist” is first used by William Whewell (1794–1866), an English scholar.

1838

Working in France and awaiting a patent for the telegraph, American inventor Samuel Morse (1791–1872) meets French artist Louis Daguerre (1787–1851), who shows him light-sensitive images on metal plates, which Morse calls “one of the beauties of the age.”

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1839

Sir John Herschel discovers that the action of hyposulphite of soda fixes photographic images permanently, experiments, makes photographs on glass, and is said to introduce the word “photography” to the public.

1839

Daguerre attempts to photograph the Moon, but the image comes out indistinct.

1839

François Arago (1786–1853), director of the Paris Observatory, makes the first public announcement of Louis Daguerre’s photographic process at a joint meeting of the Académie des Sciences and the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

1839

British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–77) counters Daguerre’s claim of inventing photography by exhibiting images of photomicrographic specimens made with his solar microscope at the Royal Institution in London.

1840

Austrian-Hungarian mathematician and physicist Joseph Petzval (1807–91) produces a lens fast enough to take daguerreotype portraits.

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1840

Andreas Ritter von Ettingshausen, a Viennese physicist, produces the first daguerreotype photomicrographs.

1840

Alfred François Donné of Chanté Hospital in Paris, a pioneer in microscopy, photographs sections of bones and teeth.

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1840

John William Draper (1811–82), English-American scientist, makes the first successful photograph of a celestial body, a daguerreotype of the Moon, made with a 5” reflecting telescope during a 20-minute-long exposure.

1841

H. Fox Talbot introduces his patented calotype (or “talbotype”) paper negative process.

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1844

H. Fox Talbot publishes the first installment of The Pencil of Nature, the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs.

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1845

William Parsons (1800–76), Anglo-Irish astronomer, builds the “Leviathan of Parsonstown,” a reflecting telescope with a 6’-diameter primary lens that leads to the discovery of the first spiral nebulae.

1846

Charles Brooke (1804–79), British surgeon, invents self-recording instruments (including barometers, thermometers, and magnetometers) that use photographic paper to record variations in measurement.

1847

A streak of lightning is recorded on a daguerreotype by T. M. Easterly in St. Louis, MO.

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1847

Maria Mitchell (1818–89) becomes famous for spotting a comet through her telescope and is the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1848.

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1848

German-born brothers, Philadelphia photographic entrepreneurs Friedrich and Wilhelm Langenheim invent lantern slides that allow for the projection of large images, transforming science and art history education.

1849

First photograph of a star, Vega, is made by American astronomer William Cranch Bond (1789–1859).

1849

American inventor J. A. Whipple (1821–99) makes high-quality daguerreotypes of lunar image at Harvard.

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1849

David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish physicist, inventor of the kaleidoscope, and popularizer of science, introduces an improved stereoscope, which leads to the first 3D photography craze.

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c. 1850

British psychiatrist, medical doctor Hugh Welsh Diamond (1809–86), a founder of the British Royal Photographic Society, photographs the expressions of people suffering from mental disorders.

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1850

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–94), German physician and physicist, invents the ophthalmoscope, used to examine the human retina.

1851

British artist Frederick Scott Archer (1813–57) revolutionizes photography by using collodion, a medical dressing, to make glass plates photosensitive.

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1851

Dr. August Ludwig Busch commissions Prussian daguerrotypist Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski to make an image of a solar eclipse at Russian observatory.

1851

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the first World’s Fair, is held in London’s Crystal Palace, celebrating technology and featuring displays of photographic images and equipment.

1851

First photograph of a planet, Jupiter, is taken by William Cranch Bond.

1852

First photomicrographs, prepared by J. Delves and S. Highly, are published in a British scientific journal.

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1853

American daguerreotypist Platt D. Babbitt (1823–79) sets up a pavilion on the American side of Niagara Falls to take and sell images of the natural wonder to tourists.

1853

First issue of the Journal of the Photographic Society, with a strong interest in scientific photographic discoveries and uses, is published in England.

1855

The Exposition Universelle in Paris (1855) celebrates scientific and technological progress with the largest display of photographs to date on subjects such as astronomy, plant and animal species, races of the world, types of mental and physical illness, and disasters.

1856

The first underwater photograph is taken by Englishman William Thompson, who uses a camera attached to a pole.

1858

British astronomer and meteorologist John Waterhouse (1806–79) develops the earliest variable aperture stops for lenses and cameras.

1858

First photographs of nervous system are made in Berlin by J. Albert.

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1858

Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79), interested in color theory, produces the first three-additive color photographic image.

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1858

The first aerial photograph is taken by French photographer and balloonist Gaspar Felix Tournachon (1820–1910), better known as “Nadar.”

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1858

Britain’s Photographic News, a trade journal edited by chemist William Crooke, begins publication.

1861

In England, William Henry Olley publishes The Wonders of the Microscope Photographically Revealed.

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1861

First reported photograph of a genuine ghost is produced by Boston engraver William Mumler.

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1862

French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne (1806–75) publishes photographs of induced expressions triggered by electric shock in The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression.

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1865

Photographs of wounded Civil War soldiers, made by New York surgeon Reed B. Bontecou, are used to verify their injuries, document treatment, and determine post-war pension payments.

1865

Hermann von Helmholtz publishes first volume of his pioneering work on visual perception, the Handbook of Physiological Optics.

1866

First modern photographic microscope is claimed to have been built by Parisian optician Camille Sébastien Nachet (1799–1881).

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1870

Thomas Smillie, appointed the Smithsonian Institution’s first photographer, documents museum specimens and performs chemical experiments for Smithsonian scientific researchers.

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1870

American astronomer Charles Young is first to photograph a solar prominence.

1872

American physician Henry Draper (1837–82), son of John William Draper, makes the first photograph of the star Vega’s spectrum showing distinct spectral lines.

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1872

British naturalist Charles Darwin (1808–82) publishes The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, one of the first scientific texts to include photographic illustrations.

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1873

The Moon, featuring dramatic photographs by Lewis Rutherfurd, is published.

1873

Camillo Golgi uses silver compounds to develop a method to stain nerve cells in order to make them visible.

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1874

Many nations, including France, Britain, the United States, Russia, and Germany, dispatch astronomers and photographers to document the transit of Venus by recording that planet’s silhouette against the Sun so its position could be measured carefully later.

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1874

James Nasmyth and James Carpenter, British astronomers, publish The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, featuring photos of plaster models of the lunar surface believed to be more realistic than obtainable with telescopic photography of the period.

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1876

Swiss chemist Ferdinand Hurter and British chemical engineer V. C. Driffield begin systematic evaluations of the characteristics of various photographic emulsions.

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1877

German physician and pioneering microbiologist Robert Koch (1843–1910) publishes the first photographs of bacteria.

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1878

In Palo Alto, CA, English-born photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) uses high-speed stop-motion photography to capture the gait of a horse in motion.

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1880

Using the new dry-plate photographic process, Henry Draper makes a 51-minute exposure of the Orion Nebula.

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Late 1870s–80s

Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–93), a French neurologist, incorporates photographic imaging in his work on hysteria at Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris.

1881

American inventor Frederick Ives (1856–1937) patents a half-tone printing process that enables photographs to be more easily printed with texts in in books, newspapers, and magazines.

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1882

William Nicholson Jennings (1860–1946), an American commercial photographer, is the first to successfully photograph lightning.

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1882

French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) makes the first chronophotographs, which combine multiple movements into a single image.

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1885

First photographs of human retina are made by W. T. Jackman and J. D. Webster in London.

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1885

First photographs of individual snowflakes are made by Vermont amateur photographer Wilson A. Bentley.

1886

The first photograph of a supersonic flying bullet is taken by Austrian physicist Peter Salcher.

1887

German glassmaker F. E. Muller produces the first eye-covering contact lenses.

1887

Scientists meet in Paris and form the Carte du Ciel, an international photographic observation project whose goal is to map the heavens.

1887

Eadweard Muybridge publishes the massive 781-image photographic collection Animal Locomotion: An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Connective Phases of Animal Movements.

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1888

The earliest-known photographs of shock waves are made by Austrian physicist Ernst Mach (1838–1916) and his son, Ludwig.

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1888

George Eastman perfects and patents the first Kodak box camera.

1890

German manufacturer Zeiss introduces Paul Rudolph’s Protar lens, the first to successfully correct for all visual aberrations.

1890s

Nature, a weekly science journal first published in 1869, introduces photographic images in its pages.

1891

First photo of an asteroid is made by German Astronomer Maximilan Franz Joseph Cornelius Wolf (1863–1932).

1891

Observatories around the world agree to participate in and assemble Carte du Ciel, the first complete photographic survey of the sky.

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1893

First underwater photographer, marine biologist Louis Boutan, begins his work in a marine laboratory in France.

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1895

German physicist Wilhelm Konrad Röntgen (1845–1923) makes a startling X-ray image of his wife’s hand and revolutionizes medical photography.

1896

American neurologist M. Allen Starr’s Atlas of Nerve Cells features the first published microphotographs of neurons.

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1897

A 40”-diameter refracting telescope is built at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, and remains the largest refracting telescope to date.

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1900

The Kodak Brownie camera is introduced and sells for $1, making photography more accessible and affordable to the public.

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1902

German physicist Arthur Korn (1870–1945) devises telephotography, which allows photographic images to be transmitted as electrical signals by wire to distant locations.

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1905

American businessman and astronomer Percival Lowell makes photographs of Mars, and claims they show life-supporting canals on planet’s surface.

1905

Henri Poincaré, in The Value of Science, declares color to be wholly subjective.

1906

Panchromatic film, with an emulsion sensitivity that captures light and scenes as they appear to the human eye, is commercially marketed.

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1908

Arthur Worthington (1852–1916), an English physicist and educator known for his research, drawings, and then photographs about fluid mechanics, publishes A Study of Splashes.

1909-13

French microbiologist Jean Comandon attaches a movie camera to a microscope and records time-lapse images of syphilis bacteria.

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1910

First filmed version of Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, tells the story of a young scientist who, in trying to create a perfect human being in the laboratory, makes a monster.

1913

Berlin pathologist Albert Solomon uses an X-ray machine to study mastectomy specimens and observes black spots at center of breast carcinomas.

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1917

During World War I, American art photographer Edward Steichen (1879–1973) becomes Chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces, and develops new aerial photographic surveillance techniques.

1917

The 100” Hooker telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California receives first light.

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1919

Photographs of a solar eclipse by British astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Arthur Eddlington (1882–1944), confirm Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, are published worldwide, and turn Einstein into an “overnight” celebrity.

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1920

British inventors Harry G. Bartholomew and Maynard D. McFarlane invent the Bartlane cable picture transmission system and, in 1921, send photographic images across the Atlantic in less than three hours.

1921

The American news agency Science Service, founded to improve public dissemination of scientific and technical news and information, begins distributing photos, news features, radio shows, motion pictures, phonograph records, and demonstration kits.

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1923

American electrical engineer Harold Edgerton (1903–90) invents the xenon flash lamp for strobe photography.

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1925

Hungarian-born artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) publishes manifesto Painting, Photography, Film and encourages artists to look to science photography for inspiration.

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1927

At the Fifth Solvay International Conference in Brussels, the world’s most notable physicists discuss the newly formulated quantum theory and pose for photos. Among those pictured are Marie Curie, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Wolgang Pauli, and Albert Einstein.

1927

Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz uses contrasting agents to make brain imaging in live patients possible.

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1928

German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897–1966) publishes Die Welt ist Schön (The World is Beautiful), in which photographs of natural forms and industrial and mass-produced objects are presented together and with scientific clarity.

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1928

German photographer Karl Blosfeldt (1865–1932) publishes Unformed der Kunst, featuring elegant macrophotographs of plant forms.

1929

German optician Berhhard Voldemar Schmidt (1879–1935) devises a corrector plate that enables telescopic images of the sky to be made with wide fields of view and limited distortion.

1929

Hungarian physicist Kálmán Tihanyi invents the infrared-sensitive, night-vision, electronic television camera for anti-aircraft defense in Britain.

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1931

In Rouben Mamoulian’s feature film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel, a man of science ingests a potion he developed and turns into a maniac.

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1931

A new and popular version of Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and featuring Boris Karloff as the Monster, is released.

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1931

German engineer Ernst Ruska (1906–88), working with Max Knoll, builds prototype for an electron microscope, the first instrument to provide better definition than a light microscope.

1932

Flexible gastroscope is introduced by German physician Rudolf Schindler.

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1932

Images made in a cloud chamber, set up by Caltech scientists Carl Anderson and Robert Millikan, present strong evidence for the existence of a new particle, the positron.

1932

Edwin H. Land (1909–91), an American scientist, works with his physics instructor, George Wheelwright, to commercialize polarizing filter technology.

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1933

In James Whale’s movie The Invisible Man, a scientist discovers a way to become invisible and turns insane.

1934-37

Photomultiplier vacuum tubes developed by RCA, extremely sensitive detectors of light in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared ranges later, become useful in nuclear and particle physics, astronomy, and medical imaging.

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1934

The 200?, 28,000-lb. telescope mirror for the Mount Palomar Observatory is cast, but takes 11 years to be polished; it becomes operational in 1949.

1935

American Surrealist artist Man Ray (1890–1976) photographs physical models of mathematical functions on display at the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris. Twelve are published in 1936 in the journal Cahiers d’Art.

1935

British scientist Sir Robert Watson-Watt (1892–1973) patents the first practical radar system for meteorological applications. During World War II, radar allows Great Britain to detect incoming aircraft and provide information to intercept bombers.

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1936

Photographer and delphinium breeder Edward Steichen displays his flowers in a two-week exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.

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1937

Harold Edgerton exhibits panel of high-speed photography of hummingbird in flight at First International Exhibit of Scientific Applied Photography in Rochester, NY.

1938

Xerography, images created by attracting carbon black to paper by electrostatic forces, is pioneered by American physicist and patent attorney Chester Floyd Carlson (1906–68).

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1940

Two feature films about Thomas Edison—Edison, the Man, staring Spencer Tracy, and Young Tom Edison, starring Mickey Rooney—are released.

1942

An early form of ultrasound is employed in medical procedures.

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1943

The use of radar to detect storms begins.

1945

First electron micrograph of an intact cell is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in March 1945 in “A Study of Tissue Culture Cells by Electron Microscopy,” by Keith R. Porter, Albert Claude, and Ernest F. Fullam.

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1945

Trinity, the first atomic bomb, is detonated in the New Mexican desert and photographed by dozens of cameras placed at various distances from the blast site.

1946

The U.S. Civil Aviation Authority unveils an experimental radar-equipped control tower to monitor civil flights and air traffic.

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1946

First image of Earth seen from space is taken by a camera atop a German V-2 missile captured by Americans and launched from White Sands, NM.

1947

U.S. military develops infrared line-scanner thermal imaging.

1947

British-Hungarian scientist Dennis Gabor develops theory of holography.

1948

The 200” Hale telescope in California receives first light.

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1950

British anthropologist Sir John Layard unearths the Nimrud Lens, a 3,000 year-old piece of Assyrian rock crystal possibly used as a magnifying glass or to concentrate the Sun’s rays and start fires.

1950

American psychologist James Gibson distinguishes between “visual world” (the world of ordinary experience) and “visual field” (the world seen as if it were a picture) in The Perception of the Visual World.

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1950s

“Better Things for Better Living Through Chemistry,” a DuPont advertising slogan, is widely used through 1982.

1950s

British chemists Max Perutz and Sir John Kendrew use X-ray crystallography to solve the structure of the oxygen-carrying proteins myoglobin and hemoglobin. They win the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1962.

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1950s

American radiologists Russell Morgan and Edward Chamberlain and physicist John W. Coltman perfect a method of screen intensification, reducing radiation exposure and improving fluoroscopic vision, that leads to advances in medical and military imaging, including night vision.

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1951

Don Herbert stars on the popular children’s TV show Watch Mr. Wizard (1951–65), where he demonstrates the science behind everyday objects and events.

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1951

In The Day the Earth Stood Still—directed by Robert Wise and starring Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie—an alien arrives and warns Earthlings they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

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1951

The New Landscape in Art and Science, an exhibition at MIT curated by Hungarian-born artist/theorist György Kepes (1906–2001), features macro- and photomicrography, cloud chamber images, and high-speed photographs.

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1952

English chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin captures Photograph 51, the X-ray diffraction pattern image that provides James Watson and Francis Crick with the key to understanding the double helix structure of DNA.

1952-54

LIFE magazine publishes a popular and widely read series of 13 science articles, The World We Live In, featuring photographs by Fritz Goro, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and others.

1952

Harold Edgerton and business partners, working for the Atomic Energy Commission, develop the rapitronic (rapid action electronic) shutter so cameras can photograph atomic bombs as they explode.

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1954

In feature film Godzilla—directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Takashi Shimura and Akihito Hirata—America’s testing of nuclear weapons results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast.

1954

Sonographic images, referred to as “sonagrams” are reported on in LIFE magazine.

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1955

Salk polio vaccine is declared successful.

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1955

Albert Einstein dies.

1956

P. Snow delivers a lecture, “The Two Cultures,” that analyzes Western culture’s intellectual split between the sciences and the humanities.

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1956

French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau co-directs the documentary film The Silent World with Louis Malle.

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1957

First computer-scanned photograph, captured by Russell Kirsch at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards, is a portrait of his 3-month-old son.

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1957

The Russians’ launch of their Sputnik satellite into an orbit around the earth triggers the Cold War space race.

1958

American electrical engineer and biophysicist Hal Anger invents a camera that uses gamma rays emitted by a radioactive isotope to detect tumors, and ushers in the age of nuclear medical imaging.

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1959

Scottish physician Ian Donald and colleagues develop practical applications for ultrasound as a diagnostic tool in obstetrics and gynecology.

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1959

In On the Beach—directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck—residents of Australia, after a global nuclear war, must face the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.

1959

The first zoom lens for still cameras, the Voigtländer-Zoomar 36-82mm f/2.8, is introduced.

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1959

Explorer 6, a small earth-science satellite launched to study geomagnetism, also tests a scanning device designed to photograph the Earth’s cloud cover, and transmits the first pictures of Earth from orbit.

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1959

The first photo of the far side of the Moon is taken by the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3.

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1960

Science images produced by American photographer Berenice Abbott (1898–1991), sponsored by the Physical Science Study Committee, are featured in a high school physics textbook.

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1960

LIDAR, which combines focused laser-light imaging and radar, is first used by meteorologists to measure clouds.

1960

Art historian Ernst Gombrich publishes Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation.

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1961

Scripted TV shows about medical doctors, such as Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare (both 1961–66) become popular.

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1961

In The Absent Minded Professor—directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Fred MacMurray—a college professor invents an antigravity substance, which a corrupt businessman wants for himself.

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1961

Images of Hurricane Esther are captured by Tiros III satellite, in orbit 400 miles away from Earth.

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1962

NASA inaugurates an arts program and begins inviting artists, including Robert Rauschenberg and Norman Rockwell, to make work based on space flight.

1962

American biologists Sy Rankowitz and James Robertson invent the first positron emission tomography (PET scan) transverse section instrument, which facilitates the diagnosis of types of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.

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1963

British primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall publishes an account of her work, “My Life Among Wild Chimpanzees,” in National Geographic magazine.

1964-65

American computer scientists Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, Charles Bisson, and colleagues work with databases of photographic images and pioneer facial recognition systems.

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1964

Computers are used to enhance the quality of images of the Moon taken by the Ranger 7.

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1965

Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson’s groundbreaking images of an 18-week-old human fetus are featured in the April 30th issue of LIFE magazine.

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1965

First photo of Mars, transmitted from the Mariner satellite, is published.

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1966

In the feature film Fantastic Voyage, a submarine shrinks to microscopic size and travels through the circulatory system and body of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain.

1967

Godfrey Hounsfield, an English electrical engineer, conceives the idea for computed tomography (CT) scanning and by builds a whole-body scanner.

1967

Once Invisible, an exhibition of science photographs curated by John Szarkowski, opens at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.

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1968

Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders takes a color photograph of Earth rising over the lunar surface that creates a sensation back home and, some believe, triggers the start of the environmental movement.

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1968

Astronauts on Apollo 7, the first piloted Apollo mission, conduct two scientific photographic sessions and transmit television pictures to the American public from inside the space capsule.

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1969

Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith invent the first successful digital sensor, a CCD (charge-coupled device), which transforms light into signals that can be captured electronically rather than on film.

1970

American zoologist and conservationist Dian Fossey’s work with gorillas is featured in photographs in National Geographic magazine.

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1970

Albert V. Crewe, British-born American physicist, is first to photograph single atoms with a scanning transmission electron microscope.

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1971

Apollo 15 astronauts use LIDAR technology to map the surface of the Moon.

1971

American chemist Paul C. Lauterbur’s work helps conceptualize and define magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnetic fields and pulses of radio-wave energy to picture organs and structures inside the human body, providing different data than other scanning types.

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1972

The Blue Marble, a photograph of Earth taken on December 7, 1972, from 28,000 miles away by the crew of the Apollo 17, becomes one of the most widely distributed images in human history.

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1972

British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield and South African–born American physicist Allan Cormack develop the computerized axial tomography scanner to produce CAT scans, which combine multiple X-ray images to generate cross-sectional views and 3D images of internal organs and structures.

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1972

Landsat, a joint project of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, begins to create a continuous map and photographic archive of images of the globe made from space and used for monitoring agricultural productivity, water resources, urban growth, deforestation, and natural change.

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1973

Astronauts on Skylab, the first U.S. space station, conduct high-resolution photography of Earth using photographic remote-sensing systems mounted on the spacecraft as well as a Hasselblad handheld camera.

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1974

NOVA, a popular and award-winning American TV series featuring interviews with scientists, based upon an earlier BBC2 series, Horizon, is distributed worldwide.

1974

American biophysicist Michael E. Phelps develops the first positron emission tomography (PET) camera and the first whole-body system for human and animal studies that shows how organs and tissues are working.

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1974

Steven Sasson invents the first digital camera at Eastman Kodak in 1975. It weighed 8 pounds (3.6 kg), had 0.01 megapixels, and took 23 seconds to record an image to a cassette tape.

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1975

Flatbed scanner is invented by American computer scientist/futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Mid-1970s

Conspiracists question whether Apollo Moon landings ever happened, claiming NASA faked photographs and shot the scenes on Hollywood sound stages.

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1977

Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero, a film by Charles and Ray Eames, largely made from still photographs animated into a zoom shot, explores the nature of scale and the limits of the observable universe.

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1977

First full MRI scan of a human being is produced.

1978

Connections, a 10-episode BBC documentary featuring science historian James Burke, airs and takes an interdisciplinary approach to science.

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1979

Voyager 1 spacecraft, nearing Jupiter, captures hundreds of images of its approach.

1979

NASA begins operation of its Infrared Telescope facility in Hawaii, with a 120” reflector.

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1980

On the TV mini-series Cosmos, American astronomer Carl Sagan explores and reports on various elements and theories of the universe.

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1981

Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, physicists working for IBM, design and build the first scanning tunneling microscope (STM), an instrument for imaging surfaces on the atomic level.

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1982

American engineering scientist Milton Van Dyke (1922–2010) publishes An Album of Fluid Motion, a collection of black-and-white photographs of flow visualizations for different types of fluid flows.

1984

Beyond Vision exhibition and book by John Darius for Britain’s National Museum of Photography, Film and Television includes 100 photographs that “provide information inaccessible to the human eye.”

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1986

First disposable camera for photography is marketed by Fujifilm.

1986

In 1986, Gerd Binnig, Cal Quate, and Christoph Gerber introduce the atomic force microscope (AFM), which is used in surface science, nanotechnology, polymer science, semiconductor materials processing, microbiology, and cellular biology.

1986

The Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is developed by Microsoft and Aldus for use in input/output devices such as printers, monitors, and scanners, designed to be compatible with different image-processing devices.

1987

Echo-planar imaging (EPI) is used to perform real-time movie imaging of a single cardiac cycle.

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1988

Kodak reaches its peak payroll of 145,300 employees.

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1990

The Hubble Space Telescope, a cooperative effort of the European Space Agency and NASA, and named after astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889–1953), is sent into orbit, and is designed to be regularly serviced by shuttle crews over its expected 15-year life span.

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1990

Adobe Photoshop 1.0 is introduced.

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1992

The JPEG is created in 1992 as a standard for the next generation of image file format compression schemes.

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1993

Bill Nye The Science Guy, a live-action educational comedy television program, debuts on American TV.

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1993

Introduction of functional MRI imaging (fMRI) allows for mapping regions of the brain responsible for thought and motor control, and facilitates early detection of acute stroke.

1993

The Face Recogntion Technology (FERET) Evaluation is co-sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency (DARPA) in an effort to encourage the development of face recognition algorithms and technology.

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1995

The Casio QV-10 is the first camera with a LCD screen on back for users to preview images.

1995

Portable Network Graphics file format (PNG) is created as a flexible file format that allows lossless data compression, gamma correction for cross-platform consistency in brightness, and variable transparency.

1997

Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science, an exhibition curated by Ann Thomas, opens at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

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1997

French-born technology entrepreneur Philippe Kahn sends the first camera-phone photograph of his newborn daughter.

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1999

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is launched, designed to detect X-ray emission from hot regions of the universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.

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2000

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–15), a TV show about a team of Las Vegas police forensic experts, premieres.

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2000

The first commercially available mobile phone with a camera that can take still pictures is introduced by J-Phone.

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2001

First generation of PillCams© are introduced.

2001

A facial recognition system is installed at the Super Bowl in Tampa, FL. No “wanted” individuals are found, but about a dozen innocent sports fans are identified as such. Media and Congressional inquiries raise privacy concerns among the general public.

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2003

MythBusters (2003–present) premieres on TV and features Hollywood special effects experts debunking urban legends by directly testing them.

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2003

The Spitzer Space Telescope is launched, the most sensitive infrared space observatory ever produced, and joins 3 other space observatories (Hubble, Compton, and Chandra), each observing the universe in a different kind of light.

2005

First light for the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in South Africa. It is 33’ in diameter, making it the largest optical telescope located in the Southern Hemisphere.

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2005

The photographic mapping program Google Earth is released for public use. Its development was funded by Keyhole, Inc., a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-funded company acquired by Google in 2004.

2006

On assignment for National Geographic, American George Steinmetz is the first photographer to use digital camera traps to photograph wildlife.

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2007

On assignment for National Geographic, American George Steinmetz is the first photographer to use digital camera traps to photograph wildlife.

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2008

Breaking Bad (2008–15) premieres, with the story of terminally ill high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who sets up a methamphetamine lab to produce and sell drugs to ensure his family’s financial security after his death.

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2008

First binocular images from the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, 10 times sharper than Hubble Space Telescope images.

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2008

GigaPan Systems equipment, using software devised for NASA’s Mars Spirit and Opportunity rovers, create hyper-detailed gigapixel panoramic images.

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2008

American biochemist Roger Tsien shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie for their work on green fluorescent protein (GFP), used in imaging living cells and tissues.

2009

Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840–1900, an exhibition curated by Corey Keller, opens at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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2010

Television: Through The Wormhole (2010–present), hosted by Morgan Freeman, premieres, and explores the deepest mysteries of existence.

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2011

MIT, using a technique called Femto Photography, develops a camera that captures one trillion frames per second, including light as it moves through space.

2011

Collide@CERN, a program that brings artists and scientists together in a free exchange of ideas, is inaugurated.

2011

Lytro releases the first pocket-sized light-field camera for consumers, capable of refocusing images after they have been taken.

2011

New microscope enables the making of 3D movies of living cells.

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2012

Stanford computer scientist Fei-Fei Li and colleagues launch ImageNet, the world’s largest dataset with more than 14 million images, as a resource for computer vision researchers.

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2013

NASA launches its Instagram account.

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2014

In Interstellar—directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine—a team of scientists travels through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival.

2015

Revelations: Experiments in Photography, an exhibition curated by Ben Burbridge and Greg Hobson, opens at the Science Museum, London.

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2015

NASA’S New Horizons satellite, launched on January 19, 2006, conducts a 6-month photo-reconnaissance study of Pluto and its moons, and sends unprecedented hi-res images back to earth.

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2015

European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, after traveling 10 years and 4 billion miles, provides unprecedented close-up images of a comet.

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2016

University of Stuttgart scientists create a tiny camera, the size of a grain of salt, that can be injected into the human body through a syringe.