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Encyclopedia > Frederick Scott Archer

Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) invented the photographic collodion process which preceded the modern gelatin emulsion. He was born in Bishop's Stortford in the UK and is remembered mainly for this single achievement which greatly increased the accessibility of photography in everyday life.

Scott Archer was the son of a butcher who went to London to take an apprenticeship as a silversmith. Later, he became a sculptor and found calotype photography useful as a way of capturing images of his subjects. Dissatisfied with the poor definition and contrast of the calotype and the long exposures needed, Scott Archer invented the new process in 1848 and published it in 'The Chemist' in March 1851, enabling photographers to combine the fine detail of the daguerreotype with the ability to print multiple paper copies like the calotype.

He later developed the ambrotype jointly with Peter Fry.

Unfortunately he died in poverty as he didn't patent the collodion process and made very little money from it. An obituary described him as "a very inconspicuous gentleman, in poor health."

His family received a gift of 747 after his death, raised by public subscription, and a small pension was also provided to support his three children after the death of their mother.

The Royal Photographic Society has a small collection of Scott Archer's photographs.

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Frederick Scott Archer (1547 words)
Frederick Scott Archer made what was, arguably, one of the most important contributions to the development of photography in the first twenty years of its existence.
Archer is recognised as the inventor of the wet-plate process because he understood the significance of collodion as a photographic binder and was the first to put together a workable method and publish it.
In May 2 of 1857, Archer died penniless and was interred in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
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