Auguste Lumière Biography

Inventor, Chemist, Photographer, Scientist, Medical Professional (1862–1954)
With his brother Louis, inventor Auguste Lumière pioneered the Cinematographe motion picture camera and made groundbreaking innovations in color photography.


Auguste Lumière was born on October 19, 1862, in Besançon, France. In 1895, he and his brother, Louis, debuted a motion picture they had shot with their revolutionary invention, a combination camera and projector named the Cinematographe. In 1907, the brothers invented the Autochrome color photography plate. Auguste spent his later years researching medical topics. He died on April 10, 1954, in Lyons, France.


Early Years

Auguste Lumière was born in Besançon, France, on October 19, 1862. Lumière had three siblings—a sister named Jeanne and two brothers, Édouard and Louis Jean. The patriarch of the family was photographer and painter Antoine Lumière. Antoine met and married the children's mother, Jeanne-Joséphine Costille, in Besançon, after opening a photography studio there. After graduating from La Martiniere technical school in Lyon, both Auguste and his younger brother, Louis, went to work for their father.


Working in collaboration with his father and brother, Auguste Lumière applied his interest in science toward inventing a new and improved "dry" photographic plate. In 1882, under the name Antoine Lumière and Sons Company, they began manufacturing their "blue label" plate. The plate, which reduced the need for dark room preparations, earned the Lumières a million dollars in the company's first year. By 1894, profits had risen to $15 million a year.

The brothers' success afforded them the opportunity to continue experimenting. At first, they tried to achieve a practical method for color photography. Although they eventually dropped the project to focus on the burgeoning field of motion pictures, their findings proved instrumental to future innovations in color photography—including their own Autochrome plate, introduced in 1907.

Motion Pictures

As the brothers shifted their focus to motion pictures, they worked toward inventing a technology that could continuously feed film through a movie camera and project it to more than one viewer at a time. In December 1895, at the Grand Café in Paris, Auguste and Louis Lumière debuted a motion picture they had shot with their revolutionary invention, a combination camera and projector named the Cinematographe. Extrapolating on the concept of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope camera—invented four years prior—the Lumière brothers' Cinematographe was more compact and weighed less than Edison's invention. As an added bonus, the Cinematographe cut down movie-making costs by requiring less film.

The following year, Auguste and Louis began opening film theaters for screening their Cinematographe films. The brothers are reportedly responsible for the world's first public motion picture screening.


Following his successful innovations in photography and motion-picture technology, Auguste Lumière shifted his efforts toward his untapped interests in biochemistry and medicine. In the early 1900s, he researched such diseases as cancer and tuberculosis. Auguste would go on to publish his research findings in the medical book Life, Illness and Death: Colloidal Phenomena in 1928. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was made a member of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.

Auguste Lumière lived to reach the ripe age of 91. He died at home on April 10, 1954, in Lyons, France. His younger brother, Louis, had passed six years earlier.

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