A Brief History of Stereoscopy
This text is excerpted from a posting to a discussion group and mailing list called P3D. The author is Dr. George Themelis, and the text is reprinted here with his kind permission.Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 12:11:52 -0500 (EST) From: DrTfirstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: P3D Concise History of Stereoscopic Imaging Message-ID: <199801141711.MAA18273@piglet.INS.CWRU.Edu> Briefly, this is my understanding of the history of stereo: 1. Until 1833 various people (Euclid, Leonardo DaVinci, etc.) had made remarks and observations regarding our two-eyed vision but no one really understood how stereoscopic vision works. 2. In 1833, Charles Wheatstone (of the "Wheatsone Bridge" fame, a device to measure resistance), an experimental physicist and, at the time, Professor of Philosophy at Kings College in London, made the most significant advance any individual has made. Wheatstone did three things: a) Invented the mirror stereoscope b) Produced the first stereoscopic drawings ever made c) Gave an essentially correct explanation of stereopsis He presented a paper in front of the Royal Society of London in 1833, entitled "On Some Remarkable and Hitherto Unobserved Phenomena of Binocular Vision". This paper was published in 1838 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. You can find this volume in the libraries of many universities and make copies of the original. 3. Why did Wheatstone use drawings and not actual stereoscopic pictures? Because there was no photography in 1833! Actually, photography was just coming out and one of the first applications of photography was to take stereo pairs. Wheatstone in his second paper on the subject, 14 years later (1852) writes that 6 months after the appearance of his first paper, at his request, Talbot (Paul? :-)) and coworkers took the first stereoscopic photographs of statues, buildings and even portraits of living persons. These were the first stereoscopic photographs ever recorded... 4. A person who worked hard to make stereo popular was David Brewster, professor of Mathematics in England. He invented the more compact refractive viewer (uses lenses) and advocated mounting the pair side by side. Failing to find interest in UK he went to France to have his viewers made. His efforts were justified in 1851 during the London Exhibition when Queen Victoria was evidently amused by various stereopairs. And this leads to: 5. Explosion of popularity of stereo views: 1850-1880. Millions of stereoscopes were sold ("No home without a Stereoscope"). 6. Decline of interest as we enter the 20th century. Keystone last US company to market stereo views. Shifts to educational market... until: 7. Late 30s Kodachrome is invented. People realize the combination of STEREO and COLOR is hard to beat. William Gruber invents View-Master in 1938. David White introduces the Stereo Realist in 1947. A new wave of popularity is ahead. Peaks around 1955. Declines by 1960. Realist closes stereo camera operation in early 70s. 8. Approaching the 21st century we see new interest, sparked in part by computers. Dr. T starts a stereo club in Cleveland. The rest is just current events. -- George Themelis
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