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HomeContents > People > Photographers > James Clerk Maxwell

Other: J. Clerk Maxwell 
Other: James Maxwell 
Dates:  1831, 13 June - 1879, 5 November
Born:  Great Britain
Active:  Scotland
Scottish physicist who worked on the theories of color and light. Working with his assistant, Thomas Sutton, three photographs of a tartan ribbon were taken using red, green and blue filters. By using magic lanterns the aligned images on a screen created a single colour image. On Friday 17 May 1861 he gave a lecture "On the Theory of Three Primary Colours" to the Royal Instution of Great Britain.
Three photographs of a coloured ribbon taken through the three coloured solutions respectively, were introduced into the camera, giving images representing the red, the green, and the blue parts separately, as they would be seen by each of Young's three sets of nerves separately. When these were superposed, a coloured image was seen, which, if the red and green images had been as fully photographed as the blue, would have been a truly-coloured image of the ribbon. By finding photographic materials more sensitive to the less refrangible rays, the representation of the colours of objects might be greatly improved.
J. Clerk Maxwell, 1862, "On the Theory of Three Primary Colours", Notices of the Proceedings at the Meetings of the Members of the Royal Institution of Great Britain with Abstracts of the Discourses delivered at the Evening Meetings, vol. 3 (1858-1862), p. 374

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James Clerk Maxwell 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.321 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on James Clerk Maxwell.] 
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