Charles Wheatstone & the craze for the stereoscope
Photo historians Brian May and Denis Pellerin will give a 3D talk on the birth and rise of the stereoscopic craze between 1832 and 1862, and on the prominent place held by King’s College London lecturer, Charles Wheatstone, in the history of 3D, then known as Stereoscopy. Professor Wheatstone was the first to demonstrate, using drawings and an optical instrument that he designed and named the ‘stereoscope’, how binocular vision works. Work began to demonstrate why most of us can see the world around us in three dimensions, and how, with only two flat pictures, our brain can recreate the illusion of depth.
King’s College London Archives house an important collection of Wheatstone’s personal papers and material, including over 90 large stereoscopic pairs that were made by various photographers from 1851 onwards, to be viewed in Wheatstone’s reflecting instrument. In the talk, some of these will be shown in 3D for the very first time, thanks to the use of two projectors and interferometric passive glasses.
Given on the 141st anniversary of Wheatstone’s death, this talk is the result of a collaboration between Brian May’s London Stereoscopic Company and King’s Archives. In part, it acknowledges and celebrates the role that King’s Archives has played in preserving our unique scientific heritage. The talk will also put the name and work of Charles Wheatstone back in the limelight, recognising him as the pioneer of today’s age of 3D movies and Virtual Reality.
BRIAN MAY is a founding member of the rock band Queen, a world-renowned guitarist, songwriter, producer and performer. Brian postponed a career in astronomy when Queen’s popularity exploded, but after thirty years as a musician, returned to astrophysics in 2006, when he completed his PhD and co-authored his first book, Bang, The Complete History of the Universe, with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. His second book, A Village Lost and Found, written with Elena Vidal, introduced the genius of Victorian stereo photographer TR Williams to a global audience.
DENIS PELLERIN is a self-taught photohistorian with a passion for stereo photography. He has been researching and learning about the history of stereo photography for over 30 years and has written several articles and books on the subject, in French and in English. In his thirtieth year as a secondary school teacher, he was hired by Brian May as curator of his photographic collection.
Brian May and Denis have co-authored three books together (Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell, 2013; The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery, 2014; Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster, 2016).