Maddox, Richard Leach, 1816-1902.

An experiment with Gelatino Bromide.

Eight year later, when tracing the rise and progress of gelatine emulsion photography, the late W. B. Bolton no mean authority, wrote of Maddox’s experiments in the following terms*:-

“ This formula differs in but one or two respects from the average formula given at the present time (1879). In the first place, aqua regia, is used, which must have an injurious action upon the gelatine; and, in the second place, an excess of silver exists in the finished emulsion. What that excess may be it is impossible to say without more definite information as the quantity and strength of aqua regia employed. But let us turn to the working of this ‘pioneer’ gelatine emulsion as described by Dr. Maddox himself. The plates were exposed under negatives, the exposures extending from half-a-minute to a minute and a half in a very poor light. The development was conducted with a plain four-grain solution of pyro. and after a thin clear image appeared, it was intensified with pryo. and silver. Some plates fumed with ammonia fogged instantly on the application of the developer. The emulsion, three days after preparation, was found to have greatly diminished in sensitiveness. It must be borne in mind that no instructions are given for removing the superfluous salts from the emulsion after sensitizing, and that, therefore, in addition to the nitrate of sodium formed by double decomposition, the mixture contained fee silver and free nitric acid. The presence of these two latter would sufficiently account for the development proceeding under the action of plain pyro. solution, the operation consisting, in fact, of silver development, and would further explain the slowness of the plates which Dr. Maddox complained of in the course of this article. Moreover, it is not surprising that after fuming with ammonia (which would neutralize the restraining acid) the plates should fog on the application of pyro., for in the absence of any restrainer the free silver contained in the film would be instantly reduced. Such was the fist attempt to utilize gelatine as a vehicle in which to suspend the sensitive silver salt in plate of collodion; and though it proved the possibility of thus utilizing gelatine, the experiment cannot be said to have turned out a success. It is not difficult at this date to point out where Dr. Maddox failed; the emulsion itself was not so much in fault as the outside circumstances under which it was to be worked.”

Maddox’s experiments received, in a marked degree, the stamp of public acknowledgment, although it must be confessed the recognition was in many cases somewhat tardy. The gold medal of the Inventions Exhibition held in 1885 was awarded to him; other distinctions were the John Scott bronze medal from Philadelphia; a bronze medal form Brussels; a gold medal from Antwerp, and numerous diplomas. The progress medal of the Royal Photographic Society was conferred upon Maddox on February 12th, 1901,the present Editor of the British Journal of Photography having the honour of being deputed to receive the medal on behalf of the distinguished experimentalist. In the autumn of 1891 the British Journal of Photography: also took the initiative in raising a sum of between £ 500 and £600, contributed by photographers in England, France Germany, and America, in recognition of the value of his work.

In microscopy and photo-microscopy, Maddox also did distinguished work, and the latter subjects gave him a theme for an excellent series of articles in the volume of the British Journal of Photography for 1883. In the following year his portrait and biography were also published in its pages, and the following extract form the appreciation of him then given will show the esteem with which his microscope work has long been held: -

“Dr. R.L. Maddox, after a voyage round the world in 1839-1840, in search of health, spent many years abroad practicing in an official and private capacity, but had eventually to renounce the arduous duties of his profession from constant suffering of a very painful nature, which had extended over half-a-century. He had early taken up the subject of microscopy as connected with his profession, and had translated Dr. Dujardin’s manual at the time that Quekett’s Treatise on the Microscope appeared. Owing to the impossibility of arranging for the use of the beautiful plates of Dujardin’s work, the translation was never published. Being obliged to return to England, Dr. Maddox employed himself in trying to extend the labours of others by combining photography with microscopic research, and in this path was so far successful as to be the recipient of two medals, and for his various writings on this and macroscopic subjects he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society. About the theme of his introduction of the gelatino-bromide process, Dr. Maddox was carrying on a series of examinations on the living organisms found in the atmosphere, and which necessitated prolonged and tedious work with the microscope, amount sometime to sixteen hours in the day. In his method he differed entirely from those who had preceded him, and this had been made the basis of further and most extended research by others, especially by Dr. Douglas Cunningham and his friend, Dr. Miquel of the Observatory of Montsouris, Paris. Dr. Maddox used an apparatus of his own invention-the “aëroconiscope”-a kind of multiple funnel set up as a vane. The wind traversing this instrument deposited the organism on a thin cover-glass duly prepared for the purpose. The organisms were then cultivated, and many of them carefully figured, the results being published in the current Monthly Microscopical Journal.

Of the gelatino-bromide process we need scarcely say more than that its present high state of utility has been brought about by the labours of the many, and Dr. Maddox may justly be proud that he closed his paper on the process with the hope that he had given another handle to the photographers’ wheel, which has indeed, without restriction, been turned to their common benefit. He gave much of his time to microscopic drawing, as it attest in the work of the late Dr. Parkes on “Hygiene,” and Dr. Naylor on “Skin Diseases” and other authors; but his coloured drawings of many of the diatomaceoe under reagents, and his figures of the ferments in the deposits of beer, etc., have, we believe, never been published. Worn down by much suffering, he was again obliged to reside abroad for a considerable period, and renounce his favourite pursuits; but since his return he has devoted much of his time to them, especially in the endeavour to photograph bacteria—some of the minutest living entities, which require both skill and patience for reproduction by photography. Dr. Maddox was always ready to impart any information he might possess, hold that the claims of science, for her advancement, were-“If freely ye have received, freely give.”

In a letter to Mr. W.J. Harrison, published in these columns on November 4th, 1887, Dr. Maddox explains why in emulsion work his attention was directed to gelatine and silver bromide: -

“Firstly, the cost of the collodion, with the troublesome manufacture of the cotton; secondly, health more or less affected by its constant use when working, as I was, in my camera, a dressing-room, often at a very high temperature in the summer months; and, thirdly, dissatisfaction with the dry methods for the photomicrographic work upon which I was much engaged. The first reason may be dismissed as of little moment when there was an adequate return upon the work done, but not so when there was an absolute loss even in an amateur’s point of view. The second reason was a more important one. Being often shut up for hours in the said camera, the temperature at full summer heat, I found the system completely saturated with the vapour of the collodion, so much so, that it could be tasted in the breath on awaking in the night, and sleep was generally much disturbed and unrefreshing, while it was much needed to restore the nervous energy wasted by constant suffering, often very severe in character; moreover, there was an outcry in the household that the collodion vapour unpleasantly pervaded every room in the house. The third reason that I could find no satisfactory dry or sticky process that did not embrace the first two reasons, and add another of its own in the shape of additional time and trouble in the preparation of the plate. These reasons set me experimenting, sometimes on paper, sometimes on glass, with vegetable gummy matters, as lichen, linseed, quince-seed; and with starchy substances, as rice, tapioca, sago, etc.; and with waxy material, as Japanese vegetable wax.

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