Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (18 November 1787 – 10 July 1851) was a French artist and physicist, recognized for his invention of the daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.
Daguerre was born in Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Val-d'Oise, France. He apprenticed in architecture, theatre design, and panoramic painting with Pierre Prévost, the first French panorama painter. Exceedingly adept at his skill of theatrical illusion, he became a celebrated designer for the theatre, and later came to invent the diorama, which opened in Paris in July 1822.
In 1829, Daguerre partnered with Nicéphore Niépce, an inventor who had produced the world's first heliograph in 1822 and the first permanent camera photograph four years later. Niépce died suddenly in 1833, but Daguerre continued experimenting.
After the death of Niépce in 1833, Daguerre concentrated his attention on the light-sensitive properties of silver salts, which had previously been demonstrated by Johann Heinrich Schultz and others. For the process which was eventually named the Daguerreotype, he exposed a thin silver-plated copper sheet to the vapor given off by iodine crystals, producing a coating of light-sensitive silver iodide on the surface. The plate was then exposed in the camera. Initially, this process, too, required a very long exposure to produce a distinct image, but Daguerre made the crucial discovery that an invisibly faint "latent" image created by a much shorter exposure could be chemically "developed" into a visible image. Upon seeing the image, the contents of which are unknown, Daguerre said, "I have seized the light – I have arrested its flight!"
After efforts to interest private investors proved fruitless, Daguerre went public with his invention in 1839. At a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences on 7 January of that year, the invention was announced and described in general terms, but all specific details were withheld. Under assurances of strict confidentiality, Daguerre explained and demonstrated the process only to the Academy's perpetual secretary François Arago, who proved to be an invaluable advocate. Members of the Academy and other select individuals were allowed to examine specimens at Daguerre's studio. The images were enthusiastically praised as nearly miraculous, and news of the Daguerreotype quickly spread. Arrangements were made for Daguerre's rights to be acquired by the French Government in exchange for lifetime pensions for himself and Niépce's son Isidore; then, on 19 August 1839, the French Government presented the invention as a gift from France "free to the world", and complete working instructions were published.
Daguerre died on 10 July 1851 in Bry-sur-Marne, 12 km (7 mi) from Paris. A monument marks his grave there.
Daguerre's name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel tower.