|Dates: ||1820 - 1907|
Burnett, best known for his application of uranium to photography, came from an old Aberdeenshire family. He was educated privately and was still living with his mother in Edinburgh by 1851. Well aware of the cyanotype process, and perhaps inspired by anna atkins, Burnett exploited the natural color of cobalt compounds to photographically reproduce the Floridae, or red seaweeds. He exhibited examples of these and other photograms in the exhibition that accompanied the 1855 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Glasgow. When Burnett became one of the founding members of the Photographic Society of Scotland in 1856, he exhibited more cobalt seaweeds in the society’s first exhibition. In the 1859 exhibition of the Photographic Society in London, Burnett’s series of “pictures exhibited to show chemical actions” was tied to his article in the Photographic Journal. Burnett then moved to Australia, becoming a sheep farmer, and later in life returned to Aberdeen. A leader in the Primrose League, a conservative political movement, Burnett was described in his obituary as a “man of fine literary tastes.”
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.
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