Louis Lumière Biography

Inventor, Chemist, Director, Scientist (1864–1948)
Louis Lumière and his brother, Auguste Lumière, invented the Cinematograph motion picture camera as well as Autochrome color photography.


Louis Lumière was born on October 5, 1864, in Besançon, France. While working in his father's photography studio, he helped develop the "blue label" photographic plate. In 1895, Louis demonstrated their next invention, the Cinematograph motion picture camera, in Paris. Over the remainder of his lifetime, he directed thousands of reels of Cinematograph footage. He died on June 6, 1948, in Bandol, France.


Early Years

Louis Jean Lumière was born on October 5, 1864, in Besançon, France. Lumière had three siblings—a sister named Jeanne and two brothers, Édouard and Auguste. His father, Antoine, a photographer, spent long hours in his studio experimenting with photographic chemistry.

Louis Lumière displayed his talent for science at an early age, while attending La Martiniere technical high school with his older brother, Auguste, in Lyon.


Following his high school graduation, Louis Lumière joined his brother and father in Antoine's photography studio in 1880, while attending the Conservative de Lyon. Together, father and sons developed a new, cutting edge, "dry" photographic plate, dubbed the "blue label" plate. Over the next several years, the family grossed millions of dollars manufacturing the plate under the corporation name Antoine Lumière and Sons Company.

The money they made with their successful invention funded further experimentation—this time, in color photography. Gradually, Louis and his brother shifted the focus of their experiments to the blossoming field of motion-picture technology. However, years later, their early research in color photography would serve as the foundation for their invention of the Autochrome process, introduced in 1907. As Auguste Lumière went on to research medical topics later in life, Louis would eventually revive his interest in photography. In the 1920s, Louis invented a stereoscopic method of photography that created a hologram-like image.

Motion Pictures

The brothers' experimentation in the studio paid off yet again when, after observing Thomas Edison demonstrate his Kinetoscope, they developed their own motion picture camera, the Cinematograph, which utilized a claw mechanism to advance the film and functioned as both a camera and film projector. In addition to being lighter and cheaper to operate than the Kinetoscope, the Lumières' Cinematograph could project at an unprecedented speed of 12 frames per second. In December 1895, at the Grand Café in Paris, Louis and Auguste demonstrated their new invention to audiences for the first time with La Sortie des usines, a film of them leaving their factory. Over the following years, the brothers opened theaters throughout the United States, sending crews with equipment to demonstrate the Cinematograph to the delight and awe of growing audiences.

To expand on material with which to demonstrate the invention, Louis began directing his own films shot with the Kinetoscope. Over the remainder of his lifetime, he amassed thousands of reels of footage. Among the most celebrated is Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat, which features a train rushing toward the audience.

In 1935, Louis extrapolated on one of his former photographic inventions by developing a stereoscopic application for motion picture making. Louis Lumière died on June 6, 1948, in Bandol, France, leaving behind a legacy of inventions that sparked a cultural revolution.

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