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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William Robert Grove

Dates:  1811 - 1896
Born:  GB, Wales, Glamorgan
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William Robert Grove
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

The son of a magistrate, Grove was born in Glamorgan and studied classics at Oxford. Preparing for a legal career, he moved to London, and was called to the bar in 1835. His interests in electricity and natural philosophy were possibly inspired by his tutor at Oxford, Baden Powell. Grove joined the Royal Institution in 1835 and that same year was one of the founding members of the Swansea Literary and Philosophical Society. He was probably first exposed to photography in Paris in the summer of 1839, where he read a paper on his new and powerful battery to the Académie des Sciences and undoubtedly also had an opportunity to examine Daguerre’s early works. And that August, when attending the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) meeting in Birmingham, he would have seen Talbot’s largest exhibition of photogenic drawings. In 1841 Grove read a paper at the London Electrical Society, “On a Voltaic Process for Etching Daguerreotype Plates” (the meeting was summarized in the Times on August 20th). In January 1843 he wrote to henry collen that he was giving a lecture the following week at the London Institution and hoped to borrow some examples of photographs of letters and prints, especially Collen’s photographic copy of the Treaty of Nanking. At the 1844 BAAS meeting Grove read a paper, “On Photography,” which detailed the experiments he had undertaken to perfect methods of direct positive photography on paper, including the conversion of negatives. He was particularly interested in copying lithographs, but unfortunately none of his photographs are known to have survived. Grove made many important contributions to science, including establishing the basis for the theory of the conservation of energy. Returning to the law in 1871, he became a judge and was knighted the following year. 
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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