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William Kennedy Dickson

william kennedy dickson, william kennedy laurie dickson
William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson 3 August 1860 – 28 September 1935 was a Scottish inventor who devised an early motion picture camera under the employment of Thomas Edison post-dating the work of Louis Le Prince12


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Inventor and film innovator
  • 3 Death
  • 4 Legacy
  • 5 Publications
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

Early lifeedit

William Kennedy Dickson was born on 3 August 1860 in Le Minihic-sur-Rance, Brittany, France His mother was Elizabeth Kennedy-Laurie 1823–1879 who may have been born in Virginia His father was James Waite Dickson, a Scottish artist, astronomer and linguist James claimed direct lineage from the painter Hogarth, and from Judge John Waite, the man who sentenced King Charles I to death

Inventor and film innovatoredit

At age 19 in 1879, William Dickson wrote a letter to Thomas Edison seeking employment with the inventor He was turned down That same year Dickson, his mother, and two sisters moved from Britain to Virginia3 In 1883 he was finally hired to work at Edison's Menlo Park laboratory In 1888, American inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison conceived of a device that would do "for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear" In October, Edison filed a preliminary claim, known as a caveat, with the US Patent Office which shut down 1932 in the great depression outlining his plans for the device In March 1889, a second caveat was filed, in which the proposed motion picture device was given a name, the Kinetoscope Dickson, then the Edison company's official photographer, was assigned to turn the concept into a reality

William Dickson invented the first, practical, celluloid film, for this application He slit a medium format roll film, which is 70 mm wide, and perforated the resultant 35 mm film, a standard format which is still in use to this day in cinema and photography

William Dickson and his team, at the Edison lab, then worked on the development of the Kinetoscope for several years The first working prototype was unveiled in May 1891 and the design of system was essentially finalised by the fall of 1892 The completed version of the Kinetoscope was officially unveiled at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences on 9 May 1893 Not technically a projector system, it was a peep show machine showing a continuous loop of the film Dickson invented, lit by an Edison light source, viewed individually through the window of a cabinet housing its components The Kinetoscope introduced the basic approach that would become the standard for all cinematic projection before the advent of video4

William Dickson and his team, created the illusion of movement, by conveying a strip of perforated film bearing sequential images, over a light source, with a high-speed shutter They also, devised the Kinetograph, an innovative motion picture camera with rapid intermittent, or stop-and-go, film movement, to photograph movies for in-house experiments and, eventually, commercial Kinetoscope presentations

William Dickson was the first person to make a film for the Pope, and at the time his camera was blessed by His Holiness Leo XIII

In late 1894 or early 1895, William Dickson became an ad hoc advisor to the motion picture operation of the Latham brothers, Otway and Grey, and their father, Woodville, who ran one of the leading Kinetoscope exhibition companies Seeking to develop a movie projector system, they hired former Edison employee Eugene Lauste, probably at Dickson's suggestion In April 1895, Dickson left Edison's employ and joined the Latham outfit Alongside Lauste, he helped devise what would become known as the Latham loop, allowing the photography and exhibition of much longer filmstrips than had previously been possible The team of former Edison associates brought to fruition the Eidoloscope projector system, which would be used in the first commercial movie screening in world history on 20 May 1895 With the Lathams, Dickson was part of the group that formed the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, before he returned permanently to work in the United Kingdom in 1897

William Dickson left Edison's company and formed his own company, that produced the mutoscope, a form of hand cranked peep show movie machine These machines produced moving images, by means of a revolving drum of card illustrations, similar in concept to flip-books, taken from an actual piece of film They were often featured, at seaside locations, showing usually sequences of women undressing or acting as an artist's model In Britain, they became known as "What the butler saw" machines, taking the name from one of the first and most famous softcore reels56




  • The Biograph in Battle T Fisher Unwin, London 1901 reprinted Flicks Books, UK, 1995
  • History of the Kinetograph, Kinetoscope, and Kinetophonograph MOMA Publications 2000 ISBN 978-0-87070-038-5 Facsimile of Dickson's own copy of his book published in 1895
  • An Authentic Life of Edison The Life and Inventions of Thomas Alva Edison with Antonia Dickson, 8 volumes New-York Thomas Y Crowell & Co 18947

See alsoedit

  • Dickson Experimental Sound Film
  • Blacksmith Scene
  • Fred Ott's Sneeze
  • Edison's Black Maria
  • List of people on stamps of the United States
  • Eugene Lauste
  • List of William Kennedy Dickson films


  1. ^ "it was his Scottish protégé, William Dickson, who ", The Scotsman, 23 March 2002
  2. ^ "William Dickson, Scottish inventor and photographer", Science & Society Picture Library, accessed 18 September 2010
  3. ^ Oxford National Dictionary of Biography
  4. ^ Carr, Jack 23 March 2002 "Adventures in motion pictures" The Scotsman magazine Johnston Press 
  5. ^ "History" American Mutoscope & Biograph Co 2006 Retrieved 16 October 2006 
  6. ^ "Let's Go to the Movies: The Mechanics of Moving Images" Exhibit Archives Museum of American Heritage 17 September 2001 Retrieved 16 October 2006 
  7. ^ "An Authentic Life of Edison The Life and Inventions of Thomas Alva Edison" New York Times 11 November 1894 By W K L Dickson and Antonia Dickson Illustrated with drawings and photographs 8 vo New-York: Thomas Y Crowell & Co $450 
  • John Barnes, Filming the Boer War Bishopsgate Press, UK,1992
  • Eileen Bowser, The Transformation of Cinema, 1907–1915 Charles Scribner’s Sons, USA, 1990
  • Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise:The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company Flicks Books, UK,1997
  • Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: the American Screen to 1907 Charles Scribner’s Sons, USA, 1990
  • Charles Musser, Before the Nickelodeon: Edwin S Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company University of California Press, USA, 1991
  • William and Antonia Dickson, History of the Kinetograph, Kinetoscope, and Kinetophonograph MOMA Publications 2000 ISBN 978-0-87070-038-5
  • Gordon Hendricks, The Edison Motion Picture Myth Arno Press, USA, 1972
  • Ray Phillips, Edison's Kinetoscope and its Films – a History to 1896 Flicks Books,UK, 1997

External linksedit

  • Works by or about William Kennedy Dickson at Internet Archive
  • William Kennedy Dickson at Who's Who of Victorian Cinema
  • Biography of Dickson
  • Adventures in motion pictures The Scotsman newspaper
  • Click here to view film
  • William Kennedy Dickson on Internet Movie Database
  • Two cats in a boxing match
  • earlycinemacom - WKL Dickson

william kennedy dickson, william kennedy laurie dickson

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