A Brief History
On August 19, 1839, the government of France announced that the “Daguerreotype process,” an invention of Louis Daguerre as an early form of photography, would be available for free to the entire world.
The Daguerreotype style of photographic process would soon be superseded by more advanced methods that cost less and produced better photographs, such as the ambrotype, but nonetheless, the gesture of goodwill by Daguerre and his country of France was a boon to civilization, a gesture only sometimes repeated by other inventors.
Another example of such inventive largesse was the work of Philo Farnsworth, an American that invented the image pick up device that became the television camera. His work on inventing the necessary process for television in the 1920’s and 1930’s were intended to be shared with the world for the benefit of all men, with Farnsworth craving mostly just the credit for the invention. Others, notably RCA, worked on making practical television for a profit. Farnsworth initially had shared his data and research but was smart enough to file patents as well. Later, he worked on a commercial application for his television, and had to fight RCA over patent infringement claims. Farnsworth had also invented radar tubes and allowed the US military free use of his invention.
Note: Philo Farnsworth was born in a log cabin in 1906 with no electricity or running water! He died in 1971.
Question for students (and subscribers): What other inventions do you know of that were made free to the public? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Everson, George. The Story of Television, the Life of Philo T. Farnsworth. Andesite Press, 2017.
Wade, John. From Daguerre to Digital: 150 Years of Classic Cameras. Schiffer, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a still life with plaster casts, made by Daguerre in 1837, the earliest reliably dated daguerreotype, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.
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