- Engineering & Materials
- Friese-Greene, William (1855–1921)
Friese-Greene, William (1855–1921)
English inventor and one of the pioneers of cinema photography.
Friese-Greene was born on September 7, 1855 in Bristol where he was educated at the Blue Coat School. He became interested in photography and in about 1875 opened a portrait studio in Bath. In the early 1880s he met a mechanic, JAR Rudge, who asked him to produce slides for a magic lantern (forerunner of the modern slide projector). This work awakened Friese-Greene's interest in moving pictures. In 1885 he opened a studio in London and met Mortimer Evans, an engineer. They decided to collaborate, and in 1889 Friese-Greene patented a camera that could take ten photographs per second on a roll of sensitized paper. Using his own apparatus, he was able to project a jerky picture of people and horse-drawn vehicles moving past Hyde Park Corner—probably the first time a movie of an actual event had been projected on a screen. In 1890 he substituted celluloid film for the paper in the camera, and in the next few years he patented improved cameras and projectors. Friese-Green died in London on May 5, 1921.
The early story of moving pictures is obscure, complicated by claims and counterclaims. Certainly several inventors were working on similar lines at about the same time. In 1824, Peter Roget lectured to the Royal Society on the subject of persistance of vision, and projected onto a screen a series of still pictures at the rate of 24 per second, which gave the illusion of smooth and continuous movement. In the 1860s and 1870s there were various inventions for similarly projecting a series of stills, such as that of Heyl (in which transparencies were mounted on a glass disk and rotated). Faster camera shutter speeds and improved photographic emulsions enabled people to take sharper pictures of moving objects. Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) took a series of photographs of a racehorse by placing 24 cameras along a track, then projecting the pictures using an apparatus similar to Heyl's. Thomas Edison designed a motion-picture machine that recorded pictures in a spiral on a cylinder, but it was unsatisfactory. In 1889 George Eastman, founder of the Kodak company, produced roll film that solved part of Edison's problem, but the pictures could still be viewed only through a lens and not projected. Edison's invention was improved by others, and in France the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière developed a machine that functioned both as a camera and a projector. They arranged a show in London in 1896, the first time the public had been able to see moving pictures.
Although Friese-Greene's movies were only short fragments and consisted of only ten pictures per second—inadequate to produce a convincing effect of movement—he had taken and projected “moving” pictures before Edison, and his patent was judged by a U.S. court to be the master patent. This brought him neither success nor financial gain, however. The same seems to have been true of his other inventions: a three-color camera, moving pictures using a two-color process, and machinery for rapid photographic processing and printing.
From the Hutchinson Dictionary of Scientific Biography, © RM, 2020. All rights reserved. Published under license in AccessScience, © McGraw-Hill Education, 2000–2020. Helicon Publishing is a division of RM.