Richard Leach Maddox was born in Bath, England on August 4, 1816. He received his degree at the University College of Medicine in Edinburgh, but health problems delayed his medical career. He traveled around the world before settling in Constantinople, where he married and set up his medical practice. After a few years there and later in Genoa and the French village of Ajaccio, Dr. Maddox returned to England, where his scientific interest in photographic processes began. His experiments in microphotography began in 1853, the year his works were shown at London's Photographic Exhibition Society.
For the next several years, Dr. Maddox conducted microphotographic research that included translating French scientist Dr. Felix Dujardin's Nouveau manuel complet de l'observateur au microscope (The New Complete Manual for the Microscope Observer) and writing a series of articles for The British Journal of Photography from 1855 until 1883. Wet-plate collodion photography further compromised his already fragile health, and so Dr. Maddox began seeking other processing alternatives. He first conducted experiments with gums, waxes, and starches, and later with isinglass, albumen, and gelatine. On September 8, 1871, his article entitled "An Experiment with Gelatino-Bromide" was published in The British Journal of Photography. Dr. Maddox described how after creating an emulsion with gelatine and silver nitrate, warmed glass plates were coated with the emulsion and allowed to dry. They were then washed off to remove the soluble salts that remained from the emulsion. While gelatine experimentation did not begin with Dr. Maddox, his efforts were the most successful. Although critics complained that this method produced slow plates lacking in density, they paved the way for the modern-day silver nitrate and gelatine-halide solutions.
After the death of his first wife, Amelia Winn Ford Maddox, he married Agnes Sharp in 1875. He and his family, which included three children, traveled the world whenever the scientist's busy schedule would allow it. Unfortunately, ill health forced Dr. Maddox to cease his photographic experiments in 1886. However, he continued to share his research findings with several scientific publications. Eighty-five-year-old Richard Leach Maddox died at his home in Southampton on May 11, 1902. A true scientific pioneer, Dr. Maddox's experiments invariably led to the development of dry plate photography.
1996 Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology (London: Routledge), p. 460.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 884.
1894 Photographic Times and American Photographer, Vol. XXV (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. 21.
1902 Practical Junior Photographer, Vol. II (Bradford, UK: The Country Press), p. 365.
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