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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Michael Pakenham Edgeworth

Other: Michael Edgeworth 
Other: Michael Edgworth 
Dates:  1812 - 1881
Active:  UK
Made photogenic drawings in India as early as December 1839. He was a daguerreotypist and calotypist.
The Edgeworth papers are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
[Courtesy of M.G. Jacob.]
M.G. Jacob has graciously provided the following additional information (7 December 2017)
In the biographical note from Ipmessed by Light, it is suggested that the Irish novelist, Maria Edgeworth, may have introduced her younger half-brother, Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, to photography in 1839-40:
‘His sister was a friend and correspondent of Sir David Brewster’s, and it was perhaps through this connection that Edgeworth first learned of photography.’ This information is misleading, as a reading of the Edgeworth papers and letters in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, reveals. Pakenham (the name by which MPE was known within the family) did, indeed, learn of the earliest photographic experiments from a sister, but not from the half-sister who had been corresponding with Sir David Brewster since 1823.
Frances (Fanny) Maria Edgeworth (1799-1848) and Michael Pakenham Edgeworth (1812-1881), were very close, issue of the fourth marriage of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817), while Maria Edgeworth the novelist (1768-1849), was the first fruit of Richard’s first marriage.
Pakenham served in the East India Company, and Fanny wrote to him frequently at Saharunpoor in Bengal, informing him of the latest developments in photogenic drawing as an aid to his botanical studies. Pakenham first mentions experimenting with photography in his Journal on 1st December, 1839. On 28th January, 1840, he began
“to prepare paper according to new rules sent out by Fanny in her last letter... the sun came out and I tried my new paper – which succeeded so well in a way – so well as to encourage me to proceed.”
By 20th May, 1840, he had obtained “...Ackermann’s Photogenic Drawing Apparatus, which I saw advertised and got up from Calcutta accordingly.”
Although none of these early botanical proofs survive in his herbaria, Pakenham must surely be considered as a photographic pioneer, perhaps the first in the Indian sub-continent. And it is likely that Fanny tried her hand at photography when Pakenham returned home to Ireland on extended leave in April, 1842, where he continued to experiment with both the calotype and daguerreotype processes.
Fanny also encouraged Maria Edgeworth to pose for her daguerreotypes at Richard Beard’s first studio at the Polytechnic Institution in London in 1841 (see Jacob, “A Visit to Mr. Beard’s,” The Daguerreian Annual, 1994: 162). Fanny should have gone to the studio that day, too, but she was ill and stayed at home. Her husband, Lestock Wilson, accompanied Maria and Honora Edgeworth to have their “likenesses” taken.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Michael Pakenham Edgeworth
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

The son of a novelist and an inventor and the youngest half brother of the enormously popular novelist Maria Edgeworth, Michael Edgeworth (also Edgworth) was born in Ireland and studied botany and Oriental languages in Edinburgh. He taught briefly at the East India College and went out to India in 1831, holding a series of administrative posts. His sister was a friend and correspondent of Sir David Brewster’s, and it was perhaps through this connection that Edgeworth first learned of photography. Returning to Britain on leave in 1842-46, Edgeworth worked with Sir David on photography and also photographed with Henry Craigie Brewster. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society while on leave and conducted botanical studies during his return trip to India. Retiring in 1859, Edgeworth moved to London; he died while on a visit to the Outer Hebrides. 
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.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

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Maull & Fox
Michael Pakenham Edgeworth 
1879 (ca)
Family history 
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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Amateur, India Botanist and Indian civil servant; educated Charterhouse, 1823-27, studied oriental languages and botany at Edinburgh, 1827-?, Haileybury; Indian Civil Service, 1831-81; on leave in England, 1842-46; married Christina, daughter of Dr Macpherson of King’s College, Aberdeen, 1846; while returning to India, he visited Aden briefly to botanize: the results of this were published as Two hours botanizing at Aden in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Of the 40 species he collected, 11 were new to science. Eminent botanist in India; stationed at Banda until he was appointed Commissioner for the settlement of the Punjab, 1850. His Indian career was cut short by sunstroke. Author of papers on botany in India, Pollen (1878) and a Grammar of Kashmiri.
One of the earliest experimenters in photography in the subcontinent, he was making photogenic drawings in 1839.
[DNB; information from Michael Jacob] 

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