Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) invented the photographic collodion process which preceded the modern gelatin emulsion. He was born in Bishop’s Stortford in the UK and is remembered mainly for this single achievement which greatly increased the accessibility of photography for the general public.
Scott Archer was the son of a butcher who went to London to take an apprenticeship as a silversmith. Later, he became a sculptor and found calotype photography useful as a way of capturing images of his subjects. Dissatisfied with the poor definition and contrast of the calotype and the long exposures needed, Scott Archer invented the new process in 1848 and published it in ‘The Chemist’ in March 1851, enabling photographers to combine the fine detail of the daguerreotype with the ability to print multiple paper copies like the calotype.
He later developed the ambrotype jointly with Peter Fry.
He died impoverished, as he did not patent the collodion process and made very little money from it. An obituary described him as “a very inconspicuous gentleman, in poor health.” His family received a gift of £747 after his death, raised by public subscription, and a small pension was also provided to support his three children after the death of their mother. The Royal Photographic Society has a small collection of Scott Archer’s photographs.
Collodion image at right by Sean MacKenna
Archer is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery London W10 4RA. The grave is on the right hand side of the leaning stone and it’s position indicated by the wreath of white flower.
For additional information on Frederick Scott Archer please visit the following two pages on Sean MacKenna’s website: