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  Louis-Alphonse Poitevin

Louis-Alphonse Poitevin was born in 1819 in Conflans (Sarthe), France. He received his undergraduate education in St. Calais, and in 1839 he became a student at Ecole Centrale des Arts and Metiers. As a student, he became extremely interested in the new daguerreotype process. After receiving a degree in civil engineering, he became a chemist at the Eastern Salt Works factory, where he developed several progressive manufacturing systems. In his spare time, Mr. Poitevin experimented with various daguerreotype methods. He discovered a successful photo engraving technique, for which he was awarded a silver medal from the Societe d'Encouragement des Arts. In 1847, he researched the photographic potential of galvanography, the production of copper engravings by using electricity instead of chemicals.

In 1850, Mr. Poitevin was one of the first scientists to recognize the potential of gelatine. Three years' alter, William Henry Fox Talbot learned that exposing dichromized gelatine to light would allow ink to stick to it, but not water. Mr. Poitevin used these findings as the basis for his carbon and collotype printing thecniques. Carbon prints became highly valued for their lush, glossy dark hues. By 1855, he was ready to work on his printing techniques full time, and resigned his position at Eastern Salt Works. He opened a printing company in Paris, but his first photo-lithographic effort, was commercially unsuccessful. He was eventually forced to sell his patent rights to acclaimed French lithographer Alfred-Leon Lemercier. He returned to manufacturing, managing Pereire's Chemical Factory in Lyon, and from there worked at glassworks factories in Ahun and Folembray. He also went to Africa to study mining processes. In 1862, he published his pigmented gelatine printing method, and also published his experiments with light interaction with iron salts. From these findings, he developed what became known as the “dusting on process.”

Mr. Poitevin began experimenting with heliochromy in 1865, and attempted to add colors to silver chloride-coated paper reminiscent of the earlier attempts made by A. E. Becquerel and Sir John Herschel. He developed a fixing solution of water and sulfuric acid, after which the images were treated with albumen. This innovative process was featured at a Paris exhibition in 1867, but unfortunately permanent images could not be preserved with this method. By 1869, Mr. Poitevin again was forced to return to industrial employment, and began working at a Saint-Germain-Lembron aluminum factory. For his photographic technical innovations, he received many awards and cash prizes. He also received the prestigious order of Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur. His last text, on his iron printing experiments, was published in 1879. Louis-Aphonse Poitevin died in Conflans, France on March 4, 1882. Three years later, a bust of the French photographic pioneer was erected in St. Calais.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 1140.

2007 The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Burlington, MA: Focal Press/Elsevier), p. 132.

1894 The Photographic Times, Vol. XXIV (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. 405.

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