log in helplinksabout



Print Room




British Journal of Photography Almanac Annual Summary of Photographic Inventions and Events in Photographic History/1923

From George Eastman House : Notes On Photographs

Jump to: navigation, search

Edited by George E. Brown, F.I.C

AMONG those whose deaths have taken place since the publication of the 1922 ALMANAC are: -
John Spiller (Nov. 8, 1921) Alexander Cowan (Mar. 3, 1922)
Major-General James Waterhouse (Sept. 28, 1922)

Mr. John Spiller was one of the oldest members of the Royal Photographic Society, and its president for the years 1874-1875. He was a scientific member of the firm of dye-makers of Brookes, Simpson, & Spiller, was among the leading early experimenters in photography, and worked in collaboration with the late Sir William Crookes. Their joint labours are particularly remembered in the Crookes-Spiller process of preserving the sensitiveness of the semi-dried wet-collodion plate which, so to speak, bridged the gap between the wet plate of Scott Archer and the collodion dry-plate of Hill Norris. Mr. Spiller appears to have been the first to suggest and to prepare a silver printing paper containing the gold required for toning-a prerunner of the modern self-toning paper. A chemical paper of his which afterwards had a photographic application of importance was one on the solvent powers of the alkaline citrates on many inorganic substances. The use of citrate in the copper toning solution of Mr. W. B. Ferguson is an instance of the later employment of these properties.

Up to four or five years ago Mr. Spiller retained an extraordinary large measure of vitality and preserved the spring and physical energy of one thirty or forty years his junior. His striking resemblance to the late Lord Roberts was frequently the cause of his being taken for the eminent soldier by men of various military ranks. His cordial disposition made him welcome in the circles of membership of chemical and other scientific societies which he frequented until a few years ago. At the time of his death eh was 88 years of age.


Mr. Cowan, who died in his eighty-sixth year, was one of the veterans of photography, and for many years head of Messrs. Marion’s dry plate factory at New Southgate. Before taking this position Mr. Cowan was for many years manager of Hills & Saunder’s studio in Porchester Terrace, London, W.; he was a first-class portraitist. In his early youth he was engaged at Paul Pretsch’s photo-galvanographic works at Holloway. He had exceeded the age of 70 by some years when he retired from the active supervision of the manufacture of plates and papers for Messrs. Marion, with which he had been associated from almost the outset of the dry-plate process. Yet at this time he had the appearance and activity of a man in the mid-fifties. Throughout his career, Mr. Cowan made and published many contributions to the technical processes of photography. In the early days of the dry-plate process he was among the leading experimenters by whom the common stock of knowledge was enriched. And his mechanical aptitude was evidenced in the design of many applications for adapting the practice of photography to the different conditions imposed by the change from wet collodion to dry plates.


General Waterhouse spent the chief part of his life in the Indian Army, during which time photography played no unimportant part in his eventful career. In 1861-62 he was commissioned to photograph the native tribes of Central India, and during the next few years was stationed in many places, including Sangor, Delhi, various hill stations and Allahabad, till June, 1866, when he was transferred to the Bengal Staff Corps. And a month later appointed to the charge of the photographic operations in the Surveyor-General’s Office at Calcutta, which post he held till his retirement in 1897.

Before taking up this work, however, Major-General Waterhouse spent five months in the offices of the Great Trigonometrical Survey at Dehra Dun, in order to undergo a course of training in photozincography, finally taking up his duties in Calcutta in November 1866.

During the period of more than 30 years in which Major-General Waterhouse occupied this important post he work out officially many improvements in photo-zincography, photo-collotype, and other processes of reproduction used in the office, and introduced the waxed sand process of heliogravure.

During his residence in Calcutta General Waterhouse did much valuable experimental work. He was the first to experiment with eosine as a colour¬sensitiser. This was in 1875, when he published his results as to its properties in rendering haloid salts of silver sensitive to yellow light. Another of his important discoveries was the extreme sensitiveness for the red and ultra-red spectrum imparted on gelatine dry-plates by an ammoniacal solution of alizarine blue.

In 1890 he was awarded the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society for his spectrographic observations of the action of dyes on dry plates for orthochromatic photography, and in the same year discovered and investigated the curious action of small quantities of thiocarbamide added to an alkaline developer in reversing the photographic image on dry-plates, and showed its application to photo-engraving.

In 1893 he investigated the electrical action of light upon silver, the results of which were published in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society and in 1895 was awarded a Voigtlander medal by the Vienna Photographic Society for his researches in scientific photography.

Since his return to Europe in 1897 General Waterhouse had carried out a number of investigations relating to the scientific side of photography, including the sensitiveness to light of silver and some other metals and the direct visible images obtained thereon, and had made several interesting discoveries regarding the early history of the camera-obscura, the telephotographic lens, and photography with salts of sliver.

General Waterhouse was president of the Royal Photographic Society in the years of 1905 to 1907, a period when the politics of the Society were by no means quiet, and probably were not particularly congenial to one of his peaceful temperament. A man of a most amiable and modest nature, his passing will be deeply regretted by the great number of those of the older generation in photography who had occasion to benefit form this great stores of knowledge and his invariable readiness to lay them at the disposal of inquirers.

By many people Major-General Waterhouse appears to have been regarded as the originator of the Waterhouse pattern of lens diaphragm. This belief no doubt obtained currency in the course of years owing to the fact that General Waterhouse was a prominent figure among photographic experimenters for many years, whereas, the John Waterhouse who was the actual originator of the diaphragm, a description of which he published in the “Journal of the Photographic Society,” 1858, July 21, pp. 258-259, appears to have made no other contributions to the practice of photography. Apparently he died early in the latter half of the nineteenth century whilst his namesake was still a comparatively young man.

At the time of his death General Waterhouse was in his eighty-first year.

AMONG others who have been removed by death during the preceding twelve months are-Mr. Charles W. Hastings, for many years editor of the “Amateur Photographer’; Mr. C.W. Burrows, a well known amateur; Mr. Chas. Taylor, a notable photographer of Royalties; Mr. S.G. Downing, of Wellington & Ward; M. Jules Carpentier, notable as an inventor of small precision cameras; M. A. Villian, also as French experimenter; Dr. A. Meydenbauer, a pioneer in photogrammetry.