The first man to experiment with Eastman's celluloid film was a Frenchman called Louis-Aimé-Augustin Le Prince. He was living in Leeds towards the end of the nineteenth century and was interested in various different kinds of visual arts (including panorama shows and magic lanterns). He designed a camera which could expose a rapid sequence of pictures and shot a brief film on Leeds bridge in 1888. However, whether he would have been able to develop his camera further is unknown, because he disappeared from a train between Dijon and Paris on 16 September 1890, and was never seen again.
The next person on the scene was the English photographer William Friese Greene. He patented a camera in 1889, which could be used to produce short picture sequences, but he never seems to have worked with celluloid film. He was claimed as the 'father of the motion picture' by British film-makers, and a film was even made about his life (The Magic Box in 1951). However, there seems to be no evidence that he had produced any films before the late 1890s.
1889 was also the year when Wordsworth Donisthorpe and W.C. Crofts patented a camera which used 'a sensitive film carried by a roll of paper or other material'. With this camera Donisthorpe took a very brief film of Trafalgar Square in 1890. Unfortunately, he failed to get the financial backing he needed to take his inventions further.
You can find out more about Le Prince at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, about Friese-Greene at Adventures in Cybersound, and about Donisthorpe at Adventures in Cybersound.
A great many people were working on developing moving pictures, but the first to be truly successful were Thomas Alva Edison in America, and Louis and Augustin Lumière in France. Click on to the next page to read about Edison's inventions.
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