Department of Physics

Source: ‘Department of Physics’, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 May 1893, p. 9

Text: Department of Physics. Annual Election in an Important Branch of the Institute. The Business Meeting Was Followed by an Exhibition of Edison’s New Instrument, the Kinetograph, Which Throws a Picture on a Screen Simultaneously with the Production by Phonograph of the Scene Presented and the Movements Pictured.

The Annual Election for officers in the department of physics, Brooklyn Institute, followed by an exhibition of Edison’s new instrument, the kinetograph, was held at 502 Fulton street last evening. The following new officers were unanimously elected: President, Professor Samuel Sheldon; vice president, Professor W. Gould Levison; secretary, James R. Priddy; treasurer, P.H. Van Evern. After a few words from the new officers, Mr. George M. Hopkins addressed the audience. In his desire to get something to interest the department he had written to Mr. Edison, who had replied in substance: “How would the kinetograph do?” He immediately visited Mr. Edison’s laboratory to investigate, and found that the kinetograph he had hoped to secure was beyond his reach. The instrument of that name, about which so much appeared in the newspapers a few years ago, is an optical lantern and a mechanical device by which a moving image is projected in the screen simultaneously with the production by a phonograph of the words of song which accompany the movements pictured. For example: The photograph of a prima donna would be shown on the screen, with the movement of the lips, the head and the body, together with the changes of facial expression, while the phonograph would produce the song. To arrange this apparatus for this evening was impracticable, he said, and the audience would have to be satisfied with the small instrument designed for individual observation, which simply shows the movements without the accompanying words. This apparatus is the refinement of Plateau’s phenakistoscope or the zootrope, and is carried out to great perfection. The principle can be readily understood by anyone who has ever examined the instrument. Persistence of vision is depended upon to blend the successive images into one continuous ever-changing photographic picture. In addition to Plateau’s experiments he referred to the work accomplished by Muybridge and Anschuetz [sic], who very successfully photographed animals in motion, and Demeny, who produced an instrument called the phonoscope, which gave the facial expression while words were being spoken, so that deaf and dumb people could readily understand. But Mr. Edison, Mr. Hopkins said, has produced a machine by means of which far more perfect results are secured. The fundamental feature in his experiments is the camera, by means of which the pictures are taken. This camera starts, moves and stops the sensitive strip which receives the photographic image, forty-six times a second, and the exposure of the plate takes place in one-eighth of this time, or in about one-fifty-seventh of a second. The lens for producing these pictures was made to order at an enormous expense, and every detail at this end of the experiment was carefully looked after. There are 700 impressions on each strip, and when these pictures are shown in succession in the kinetograph the light is intercepted 700 times during one revolution of the strip. The duration of each image is 1-92 of a second and the entire strip passes through the instrument in about thirty seconds. In this instrument each image dwells upon the retina until it is replaced by the succeeding one, and the difference between any picture and the succeeding one or preceding one is so slight as to render it impossible to observe the intermittent character of the picture. Ht explained the manner in which the photographs were produced by presenting the familiar dancing skeleton on the screen. A zootrope, adapted to the lantern shows the principle of the Kinetograph. In this instrument a disk having a radial slit is revolved rapidly in front of a disk bearing a series of images in different positions, which are arranged radially upon a rapidly revolving disk. The relative speeds of these disks are such that when they are revolved in the lantern the radial slit causes the images to [be] seen in regular succession, so that they replace each other and appear to really be in motion, but this instrument on exhibition, as compared with the kinetograph, is a very crude affair.

At the conclusion of Mr. Hopkins’ address every one was accorded an opportunity of looking into the new machine, which was for the first time exhibited publicly. It is one of many Mr. Edison has made for the world fair and was exhibited last night by one of his assistants, Mr. W. Kennedy Laurie Dickson. It can be compared to the photograph, that is, it pictorially presents every object brought within its view. As described above, it shows living subjects portrayed in a manner to excite wonderment. One of the pictures seen in the machine, for example, was that of a blacksmith shop in which two men were working, one shoeing a horse, the other heating iron at the forge. The one would be seen to drive the nail into the shoe on the horse’s hoof, to change his position, and every movement needed in the work was clearly shown as if the object was in real life. In fact, the whole routine of the two men’s labor and their movements for the day was presented to the view of the observer. At the conclusion of the exhibition a vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Hopkins.

Comments: This presentation for around 400 members members of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on 9 April 1893 was the first public exhibition of the Edison Kinetoscope peepshow (an earlier model had been presented to members of the Federation of Women’s Clubs at Edison’s home at Glenmont, 20 May 1891). The article uses the term Kinetograph (which was the name of the camera) when it means the Kinetoscope (which had not been publicly named as such as yet). The films exhibited were Blacksmithing Scene (1893) and Horse Shoeing (1893). All of the press material on Edison’s moving image experiments at this time mention the intention to marry the viewer with the Phonograph, the crude realisation of which would be the Kinetophone of 1895 (a Kinetoscope with hearing device). The experimenters in motion photography mentioned in the article are Joseph Plateau, Eadweard Muybridge, Ottomar Anschütz and Georges Demenÿ. Contrary to what was promised here, the Kinetoscope was not exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Links: Brooklyn Newstand (online archive of Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

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