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8 Important Daguerreotype Photos

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Wikimedia Commons

On this date in 1839, the French government released Louis Daguerre’s photographic process to the world—for free. The inventor began developing the process with partner Nicéphore Niépce in the early 1830s; it involved securing a thin, silver-plated copper sheet within a camera obscura and exposing the plate to the fumes from iodine crystals, which created a layer of light-sensitive silver iodide. When the photographer removed the camera's cover, the plate was exposed to light. In a darkroom, the plate would be developed with mercury fumes and fixed in a salt solution, creating a daguerreotype (Niépce died in 1833, so the process was named after Daguerre).

This process would be soon used around the world (except in England, where those who wanted to make daguerreotypes had to pay a hefty licensing fee; William Henry Fox Talbot, who created his photography process, called calotype, and patented it in 1841, would also sell licenses to use his method). Eventually, the daguerreotype process was replaced by the wet collodion process, but many photos—of political figures, of regular workers, of buildings and landmarks, of celestial bodies—would be frozen in time using Daguerre's method. Here are a few of them. 

1. L’Atelier de l'artiste

The still life of plaster casts on a window ledge above, taken by Daguerre in 1837, is purportedly the first surviving image taken using his process.

2. Boulevard du Temple, Paris

Wikimedia Commons

Daguerre took this photo, which is believed to be the earliest to show a living person, in 1838. Because of the long exposure time (10 minutes or more), no moving traffic was captured. But two men—a shoe shiner and his customer—were still enough to leave a trace.

3. Robert Cornelius

Library of Congress

This self-portrait of photographer Robert Cornelius is believed to be the first daguerreotype taken in North America

4. The Moon

io9

John William Draper took the first daguerreotype of the moon in 1839 or 1840 from a rooftop in New York. His first attempt was not as successful.

5. Abraham Lincoln Portrait

Library of Congress

The earliest known photograph of America’s sixteenth president was a daguerreotype, taken when Lincoln was a 37 year old lawyer and Congressman-elect living in Springfield, Illinois.

6. The First News Photo

Getty Images

This French daguerreotype of an arrest in 1847 might be the first-ever news photograph.

7. Solar Eclipse Sequence

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

William and Frederick Langenheim weren’t the first photographers to capture a solar eclipse—that honor goes to a Russian photographer named Berkowski, who made the first photograph of a solar eclipse in 1851—but they did snap this eclipse, the first visible in North America since the invention of photography, on May 26, 1854. (The reason that the Moon travels from left to right in this eclipse, instead of from right to left, as it does in the Northern Hemisphere? All uncorrected daguerreotypes are reversed, as though looking in a mirror.) There was an eighth image, but as the Metropolitan Museum of Art points out, “In order to produce any kind of image at all, the Langenheims were forced to use the smallest cameras available, since smaller cameras require proportionally less light and there was virtually no available light when the disk of the new moon eclipsed the largest part of the sun. The missing eighth image was probably made on the smaller plate size and showed nothing at all—a total eclipse.”

8. Joseph Jenkins Roberts

The first and seventh president of Liberia, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who emigrated there from Virginia in 1829. He was photographed in 1851 by Augustus Washington, an African American daguerreotypist who also emigrated to the country in 1853.

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MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images
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This Just In
Pablo Neruda's Death Wasn't Caused by Cancer, Experts Conclude
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MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

Pablo Neruda—whose real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto—died on September 23, 1973, less than two years after he was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. The official cause of death was recorded as cancer cachexia, or wasting syndrome, from prostate cancer. But while Neruda did have cancer, new tests on his remains indicate that the left-leaning Chilean politician and poet didn’t actually succumb to the disease, according to BBC News.

It’s still unclear what, exactly, caused Neruda’s demise. But in a recent press conference, a team of 16 international experts announced that they were "100 percent convinced" that the author's death certificate "does not reflect the reality of the death,” as quoted by the BBC.

Neruda died in 1973 at the age of 69, less than two weeks after a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. Neruda, a Communist, was a former diplomat and senator, and a friend of the deposed politician.

In 2011, Manuel Araya, Neruda’s chauffeur, claimed that the poet had told him that Pinochet’s men had injected poison into his stomach as he was hospitalized during his final days, Nature reports. The Communist Party of Chile filed a criminal lawsuit, and Neruda’s remains were exhumed in 2013 and later reburied in 2016, according to the BBC.

Many of Neruda’s relatives and friends were reportedly skeptical of Araya’s account, as was the Pablo Neruda Foundation, according to The New York Times. But after samples of Neruda’s remains were analyzed by forensic genetics laboratories in four nations, Chile’s government acknowledged that it was “highly probable” that his official cause of death was incorrect.

And now, the team of scientists has unanimously ruled out cachexia as having caused Neruda’s death. “There was no indication of cachexia,” said Dr. Niels Morling, a forensic medical expert from the University of Copenhagen, as quoted by The Guardian. Neruda “was an obese man at the time of death. All other circumstances in his last phase of life pointed to some kind of infection.”

The investigating team says that their analysis yielded what might be lab-cultivated bacteria, although it could have also originated from the burial site or been produced during the body's decomposition process. Test results will be available within a year, they say.

[h/t BBC News]

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Fox Photos, Stringer, Getty Images
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Art
Winston Churchill’s Final Painting Is Going to Auction for the First Time
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Fox Photos, Stringer, Getty Images

While serving as an influential statesman and writing Nobel Prize-winning histories, Winston Churchill also found time to paint. Now, The Telegraph reports that the final painting the former British prime minister ever committed to canvas is heading to the auction block.

The piece, titled The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, depicts the pond at Churchill’s home in Kent, England, which has been characterized as his “most special place in the world.” A few years after the painting was finished, he passed away in 1965 and it fell into the possession of his former bodyguard, Sergeant Edmund Murray. Murray worked for Churchill for the 15 years leading up to the prime minister's death and often assisted with his painting by setting up his easel and brushes. After decades in the Murray family, Churchill’s final painting will be offered to the public for the first time at Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art sale next month.

Winston Churchill's final painting.
Sotheby's

Churchill took up painting in the 1920s and produced an estimated 544 artworks in his lifetime. He never sold any of his art, but The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell shows that the hobby was an essential part of his life right up until his last years.

When the never-before-exhibited piece goes up for sale on November 21, it’s expected to attract bids up to $105,500. It won’t mark the first time an original Winston Churchill painting has made waves at auction: In a 2014, a 1932 depiction of his same beloved goldfish pond sold for over $2.3 million.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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