Collodion Chemist of Hertford

 
 
You can now buy his biography, the very first to be written at the 'Catchers of the Light' eBook store, please click here.
 
Frederick Scott Archer (FSA) was without doubt one of the great pioneers of early photography, whose name should stand near to, if not alongside the likes of Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot.
 
His discovery in 1851 of the wet collodion process revolutionized photography, making it easier to obtain images with exposures of a few seconds only, and which also enabled multiple positive copies to be quickly made from the same glass negative plate; unlike the Daguerreotype process which produced a one off positive image on a silvered copper plate which could not be readily replicated.
 
The Wet Collodion Plate was the preferred photographic process from its introduction in the early 1850s until the advent of the mass produced 'dry' Gelatino-Bromide plate in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Yet at the time of his death in 1857, he was largely unrecognized, certainly unrewarded and definitely in impoverished circumstances.
 
Even today he is not as well known as the other early photographic pioneers. The 150th Anniversary of his death in 2007 came and went unnoticed by the world, despite ample opportunity in the years since his death for historians to reassess his contribution to the development of photography.
 
Up until now there has been no detailed biography of Frederick Scott Archer. What has been written to date is vague, almost always repeating the same information (often incorrect), without any documentary or physical evidence to support it. We shall now attempt to rectify this unfortunate and unforgivable situation – Frederick Scott Archer deserves to be heard. History owes it to hi.
 
It is our intention to correct the deck history has dealt FSA and to put him in his true place among the great pioneers of early photography. To this end we are in the process of writing the first fully detailed and thoroughly researched biography of Frederick Scott Archer to be called - 'To the Sons of the Sun', so named in recognition of his gift of the wet collodion process to the world of photography without any thought of personal gain or advancement within society.
 
It is our firm belief that FSA's invention of the collodion process had a far greater impact on the development of early photography than previously believed.
 
In particular it stimulated the growth of Astrophotography through the likes of George Phillips Bond, Warren de La Rue and Lady Margaret Huggins, and as consequence began the long process of understanding the very nature of our Universe. Something the Daguerreotype and Calotype processes were incapable of doing, because of their inability to capture faint detail with sufficiently short exposures commensurate with the tracking accuracy of the telescopes of the time. 
 
Lady Margaret Huggins firmly believed this too, as witnessed by the remarks she made in her 1890 obituary notice for Warren de La Rue:
 
“In 1851 Scott Archer and Dr. Diamond introduced the collodion process in practical form, and this finally prepared the way for such a worker as Mr. De La Rue; for the introduction of the collodion process was an event in photography second only in importance to the discovery by Daguerre in 1839.”
 
These words were written by one of the most eminent Astrophysicists of her day, who together with her husband Sir William Huggins were the parents of Astronomical Spectroscopy - the science which was the first to reveal the physical composition of stars, nebulae and galaxies.
 
This is just one of the many examples relating to the life of FSA which people are either unaware of; or which have been lost in the pages of history. 
 
Our biography will tell the story of the real FSA and will begin with the fact that FSA was born in Hertford, Hertfordshire, England and NOT Bishops Stortford as is stated in every other 'biography' of his life.
 
More importantly it will be written according the rules of history that Cicero laid down over two thousand years ago; which are as true to today as they were then. 
  
It is the first and fundamental law of history that it should neither dare to say anything that is false, nor fear to say anything that is true, nor give any just suspicion either of favour or disaffection; that, in the relation of things, the Writer should observe the order of time, and add also the description of places ; that in all great and memorable transactions he should first explain the counsels, then the acts, lastly the events ; that in the counsels he should interpose his own judgment on the merit of them; in the acts he should relate not only what was done, but how it was done ; in the events he should show what share chance, or rashness, or prudence had in them ; that in regard to persons he should describe not only their particular actions, but the lives and characters of all those who bear an eminent part in the story."
  
In the coming months we will be asking the photographic community for help, support and information on this difficult and challenging project.
 
If you have any comments or information which will assist us then please mail us at: blog@frederickscottarcher.com
 
 
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator, Historian & Politician