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Gabriel Lippmann

Gabriel LippmannAKA Gabriel Jonas Lippmann

Born: 16-Aug-1845
Birthplace: Hollerich, Luxembourg
Died: 13-Jul-1921
Location of death: (Atlantic Ocean)
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Photographic color plate

French inventor and physicist Gabriel Lippmann created the first color photographs. He conceived of his system in 1886, and spent the next several years explaining and refining the complex physics of his theory, based on the interference phenomenon, involving the merging of different light waves and requiring a coating of mercury behind the photographic plate's emulsion. In 1891 he presented the first color photograph, although the quality was poor, and in 1893 he presented several nearly-perfect color photographs taken by Auguste and Louis Lumière. The process, however, was time-consuming, not practical beyond the most advanced laboratories, and the resulting color photographs could not be reproduced. His work served as an important landmark in the future of photography and earned Lippmann the Nobel Prize in 1908, but his system of color photography was never widely used.

Lippmann had no formal education beyond high school, and failed his examination for teaching credentials. At the age of 28 he invented the Lippmann capillary electrometer, which allowed precise measurements of extremely small electrical voltages and was the basis for early electrocardiographs. He was then appointed to a French academic mission to explore better methods for teaching science, which brought him to Germany, where he worked with famed scientists Hermann von Helmholtz and Gustav Robert Kirchhoff. Upon returning to Paris he had no difficulty securing a teaching post at the Sorbonne, and five years later he was promoted to full professor. His students included Marie and Pierre Curie, and his father-in-law was the novelist Victor Cherbuliez (1829-1899). He also invented the coleostat, a device that compensates for the Earth's rotation and allows long-exposure photographs of the sky. His other work included studies of the behavior of pendulums, and improvements to the seismograph. He died at sea in 1921, while returning to France from a visit to Canada.

Wife: Mademoiselle Cherbuliez (m. 1888, no children)

    High School: École Normale, Paris
    Teacher: Science, Sorbonne (1878-83)
    Professor: Mathematical Physics, Sorbonne (1883-86)
    Professor: Physics, Sorbonne (1886)
    Administrator: Laboratories of Physical Research, Sorbonne (1886)

    Nobel Prize for Physics 1908
    Bureau des Longitudes
    French Academy of Sciences 1883
    Grand Ducal Institute
    Royal Society Foreign Member
    French Academy of Sciences President (1912)
    French Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Luxembourg Ancestry


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