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  Frank W. Donisthorpe

Frank Wordsworth Donisthorpe was born into a prominent British family on October 14, 1878. His father, George, was an inventor who conducted several types of photographic equipment experiments. His young son watched with great interest, and became his father's enthusiastic apprentice. He later recalled, "He... made an apparatus for taking the pictures on plates dropping past a lens in rapid succession… I remember the apparatus well when I was a tiny kid... we used to play at dropping plates down." In January 1903, the junior Donisthorpe - one of the earliest cinematography aficionados – applied for patent number 1,483, for the stereo-optic gadgets he created to be used with twin cameras and projectors. He also pioneered an anaglyph optics projection system that enabled a three-dimensional image to be viewed as a color composite photograph through eyeglasses fitted with colored lenses. Mr. Donisthorpe began experimenting a printing process that did not rely upon a light source, patented in 1908, that enabled quality prints to be produced day or night. One independent observer proclaimed that the Donisthorpe process was "the most wonderful departure in photographic methods which has yet been introduced." He subsequently devised a system that allowed him to produce color prints onto gelatin-treated paper through the use of a prepared dye solution. The technique was easy enough for amateur photographers to use, was inexpensive, and could produce numerous prints with limited investment in equipment, chemicals, and dyes. The amiable Mr. Donisthorpe was a master of promotion, and willingly provided free demonstrations of his process and impressed with the excellent quality of his prints.

The aspiring photography pioneer married playwright Gladys Milly Leon in 1916. Years later, she published the popular romantic novel, Loveliest of Friends, under the pen name G. Sheila Donisthorpe. She often served as the primary breadwinner, which gave her husband the freedom to focus on his many inventions that included dye-transfer printing and tricolor photography. He shifted his focus to color cinematography in 1922, and invented several types of projection devices and color reflectors. A champion tennis player, Mr. Donisthorpe branched out into sports inventions by developing extra-long bowed wooden rackets with two-handled grips that distinguished themselves from their short, lopsided counterparts. He remained an active inventor until felled by illness. Sixty-seven-year-old Frank Donisthope died at London's Paddington Hospital on June 30, 1946. While his quirky tennis rackets have faded into obscurity, a new generation of cinematic historians are, at long last, celebrating his innovative contributions to color photography and motion pictures.

1998 Industry, Liberty, and a Vision: Wordsworth Donisthorpe's Kinesigraph by Stephen Herbert (London: The Projection Box), p. 28.

2015 Patentmaps: Frank Wordsworth Donisthorpe (URL:

1908 Photography, Vol. XXV (London: Iliffe & Sons Limited), pp. 320-321.

1908 The Reading Eagle (Reading, PA: The Reading Eagle Company), p. 4.

2007 Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952 by Ray Zone (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky), p. 87.

2002 Tennis Confidential: Today's Greatest Players, Matches, and Controversies by Paul Fein (Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, Inc.), p. 259.

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