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  J.W. Draper

JOHN W. DRAPER 1811 - 1882

On the 5th of May, 1811 John William Draper was born near Liverpool, England. The son of an itinerant Methodist preacher.

In 1832, Draper immigrated to the United States with his mother, his three sisters and his new wife Antonia Coetana de Paiva Pereira Gardner. In America Draper continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania in medicine and chemistry.

In 1836 he earned his medical degree and shortly after began working as a professor of physics and physiology at Hampton-Sidney College, in Virginia.

In 1837 Draper began experimenting intermittently with silver nitrate and the actions of vapors, similar to the work performed by Thomas Wedgwood and Sir Humphrey Davy. Some of the results of his research were published in the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL SCIENCES.

In 1839 Draper moved to New York City for a new job as professor of chemistry and natural history in the Academic Department of The University of New York. Upon hearing of Daguerre's discovery, Draper immediately began experimenting with the daguerreotype process,

In March 31, 1840, Draper wrote a a paper to the London and Edinburgh Philosophical Journal. The magazine published Draper's letter in the September 1840 issue. In the article Draper explains his process for photographing portraiture with the daguerreotype process. This was the first report received in Europe regarding successful photographic portraiture, although others have laid claim to being the first. Dr. Draper’s first reported portraiture was that of his sister, Miss Dorothy Catherine Draper, dressed in white sitting still for a period of 65 seconds.

Dr. Draper stated, “that with a double convex lens of four Inches diameter and a fourteen inch focus, he had produced perfect miniatures in the open air, in from twenty to ninety seconds, and that in diffused daylight. On a bright day, portraits could be made in from five to seven minutes. He recommended the passing of light through blue glass, so as not to fatigue the eyes of the sitter. He described also a head-rest, advised how the hands should be kept, spoke of the management of the background, the angle under which the light should fall, the effect of different kinds of dress, I the use of vases, urns and I other ornaments, and in short, gave so much practical advice as to prove that he thoroughly understood and had tested every thing connected with the subject”.. Due to his documented accounts Professor Draper is considered the father of portraiture. (An article documenting Drapers efforts is available to HCCC elite members in the v2q3 newsletter)

On March 23, 1840, after a number of unsuccessful attempts, Draper reported, at a meeting of the New York Lyceum of Natural history, later to become the New York Academy of Sciences, that he had been successful in utilizing a small daguerreotype camera to photograph the moons surface on one inch diameter plates with a twenty minute exposure. He later copied these images on to larger ones by the use of an enlarging camera. The first photographs of the moon clearly showed areas of dark spots and the lunar surface although quite crude. In his memoirs Draper wrote: "By the aid of a lens and heliostat I caused the moon beams to converge on a plate, the lens being three inches (76mm) in diameter. In half an hour a very strong impression was obtained. With another arrangement of lenses I obtained a stain nearly an inch (25mm) in diameter in which the dark spots might be indistinctly traced. This marked the beginning for Astronomical Photography.

In April, 1840, Draper entered into a partnership with Samuel Morse. This venture extended the advancement of photography, through experiments for refining the process, thus propelling its business. Draper experimented with different lenses utilizing lenses of short focus and large apertures to decrease exposure times.

In 1843 Draper constructed a "Tithonometer", an instrument for measuring the intensity of light, which was to be the forerunner of the actinometer and other future light measuring devices. 6

During 1853 Draper served on the awards committee along with Samuel F.B. Morse and James Renwick. Their committee awarded photographer Jeremiah Gurney, a $500 silver pitcher as first prize for the best daguerreotype, in the first American photo contest sponsored by Edward Anthony.

In 1856 Draper published the book, “Human Physiology And Dynamical”. The book was illustrated with the first photomicrographs that he took.

In 1863 Harpers published his work, “History Of The Intellectual Development Of Europe”. This literary accomplishment was received with to rave reviews. Draper summarized his own book as "This work is the completion of my treatise of physiology, in which man was considered in his social relation. Seen through the medium of physiology, history presents a new aspect to us. We gain a more just and thorough appreciation of the thoughts and motives of men in successive ages of the world."

In 1864, Draper was president of the American Photographic Society, established in 1858. The APS was one of the first amateur clubs for the advancement of photography.

In 1865 -1880 Draper continued to publish many of his works including his “Thoughts On The Future Civil Policy Of America” in 1865. The “History Of The American Civil War” In 1870, an important three-volume work. The “History Of The Conflict Between Religion And Science”, 1876 and a book on his collection of early papers titled “SCIENTIFIC MEMOIRS: Being Experimental Contributions To A Knowledge Of Radiant Emergy”, published in 1878 by Harpers.

On January 4, 1882, Professor John William Draper died at the age of 71 at his home in Hastings-on-the-Hudson, New York.

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2003-10-11 00:00:00

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