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Nicéphore Niépce was a French inventor credited as an inventor of photography and a pioneer of the field. His invention, heliography, created what was considered the world’s first photograph. He died without witnessing the success of his invention and did not get enough credit for it. Fortunately, his family benefited from his discovery.
See the fact file below for more information on the Nicéphore Niépce or alternatively, you can download our 24-page Nicéphore Niépce worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
NIÉPCE’S EARLY LIFE
- Joseph Nicéphore Niépce was born on March 7, 1765 in Chalon-sur-Saône, France. He was simply known as Nicéphore Niépce.
- His father was a wealthy lawyer and a king counselor. He was the second child of the family, consisting of one older brother and a younger brother and sister.
- His family needed to flee from France during the French revolution as they were suspected of royalist sympathies.
- In 1786, Niépce entered the Oratorian Brothers College in Angers. He showed his genius and passion in Chemistry and Physics, which eventually paid off. He was immediately appointed as a professor at the College after he graduated.
- He used his baptism name, Joseph, when he started in Angers but adopted the name Nicephore in honor of Saint Nicephorus, the ninth-century Patriarch of Constantinople.
- In 1788, Niépce went back to France and enlisted in the National Guard in Chalon-sur-Saône but eventually joined the Revolutionary Army as a staff officer under Napoleon in 1792.
- He spent most of his later career in the military in Italy and on Sardinia’s island before he left the army due to poor health. He settled in Nice and got married to Agnes Romero. He then became the Administrator of the district of Nice.
- However, after less than a year, he was reportedly forced to resign due to lack of popularity. The real reason, however, was he wanted to pursue scientific research with his brother.
- In 1801, Niépce returned to his family home in Chalon-sur-Saône with his brother, Claude. They reunited with their family and managed the family estate as wealthy gentlemen-farmers, raising beets and producing sugar.
- Nicéphore and Claude also devoted their lives to experimentation and invention. Their first invention was the world’s first internal combustion engine they called pyreolophore. It was fueled by lycopodium powder, which was expensive at that time, but in 1816, they discovered the fuel injection principle, which uses kerosene as how it is today.
- Niépce became interested in lithography, a skill that he was poor at. Painters during that time had been using the camera obscura, a wooden box with a lens at one end and a mirror at the other, that aided them to draw more accurately.
- Using camera obscura, Niépce experimented with copying images on chemically treated paper. He had produced a faint negative image on white paper of a birdhouse in 1816. However, the results were negatives, in which the lighter areas appear to be the darkest, and the darkest appears to be the lightest.
- By 1823, Niépce conceived what we now call the contact print. He discovered the bitumen of Judea, a kind of asphalt, was sensitive to light. Artists used this substance to make etchings. Nicéphore used it to make what was believed to be the world’s first permanent photo.
- In this process, Niépce dissolved the bitumen in a solvent and spread the solution on a pewter plate. The bitumen became hard and soluble when exposed to light using the camera obscura. After exposure, the plate was soaked in lavender oil and turpentine, removing the soft unexposed bitumen and leaving a permanent image created by light.
- In 1826, Niépce used the view from a window of his house in Chalons-sur-Saône, which he exposed to the sun for eight hours. It became the earliest surviving ‘photograph.’ He called this process heliography, which means drawing with the sun.
- Niépce attempted to present his invention and six of his photographs in plates to King George and the Royal Society in 1827. He left the plates to his friend, Franz Bauer, as the presentation never took place.
- He tried to continue experimenting with heliography by entering into a partnership with a fellow Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, but he died of a heart attack in 1833.
- In 1839, Niépce’s invention was forgotten as his partner announced the daguerreotype process, the first successful type of photography, for which he did not receive any posthumous credit.
- Daguerre formed a partnership with Niépce’s son. Together, they received a government pension in return for disclosing his and Niépce’s invention’s technical details.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT NICÉPHORE NIÉPCE
- Niépce went to England not only to try to present his invention to the king and the Royal Society but to visit his brother Claude whose letters showed that he was having a mental breakdown. He found his brother in a delirious state and discovered that he spent the family’s fortune chasing business opportunities for the Pyréolophore.
- Niépce was so poor when he died that his grave was funded by the municipality in Saint-Loup de Varennes’s cemetery.
- In 1807, the Niépce Brothers entered a competition opened by the government to replace the original Marly machine that delivered water to the Palace of Versailles from the Seine river. This machine pumped water a distance of one kilometer and raised it 150 meters. The Niépce brothers invented a new hydrostatic principle for the engine and improved it once more in 1809. However, the emperor decided to ask engineer Périer to build a steam engine in December 1809.
- In 1818, Niépce invented his own velocipede that became quite popular on France’s local country roads. He called it vélocipède, which means fast foot. In one of his letters to his brother, he contemplated motorizing his vélocipède.
Nicéphore Niépce Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Nicéphore Niépce across 24 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Nicéphore Niépce worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Nicéphore Niépce who was a French inventor credited as an inventor of photography and a pioneer of the field. His invention, heliography, created what was considered the world’s first photograph. He died without witnessing the success of his invention and did not get enough credit for it. Fortunately, his family benefited from his discovery.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Nicéphore Niépce Facts
- Niepce’s Bio
- The Niepce’s Inquiry
- An Important Invention
- Life of an Inventor
- Other Inventions
- Making the First Photo
- Printed Memories
- Fact or Bluff
- Digital vs Print
- Made Possible by You
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