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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Benjamin Herschel Babbage

Dates:  1815 - 1878
Active:  Great Britain / Australia

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Benjamin Herschel Babbage
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Babbage’s namesake was Sir John Herschel, the closest friend of his father, the eccentric computer pioneer Charles Babbage. It was undoubtedly through these connections that Benjamin Babbage first met Talbot. After working for Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the Great Western Railway, Babbage traveled to South Australia in 1851 to conduct a geological and mineral survey. Active in gold mining, he would go on to build the first railway in the county. It seems certain that he began his calotyping while still in England, for Babbage observed that “the great heat makes it much more difficult to obtain good paper photographs” in Australia. In 1857 he proposed calotyping on an expedition for the government, suggesting in his application for funding that he “should take a photographic apparatus to bring back faithful representations of the country traversed by the expedition, and pictures of any rare animals, birds, or vegetable productions that may be met with.” The commissioner approved, and in a report to the Philosophical Society of Adelaide after his return, Babbage confirmed the value of the calotype process for field use, detailing a complex system of nine different iodizing approaches by which to cope with the effects of extreme heat. Near the end of his life Babbage became a pioneer in the fledgling South Australian wine industry. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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