VASC Seminar: Roger Cicala
Capturing Light: The History of Imaging
For most of recorded history, man has had a fascination with manipulating light and images. It began with crystal lenses and the camera obscura at least 2,500 years ago and continues with the advanced techniques made possible by silicon and software today.
The ability to capture and reproduce an image was thought impossible for most of that time. Those who attempted it were usually ridiculed, generally ignored, and sometimes visited by the Inquisition. Occasional discoveries were made but often forgotten. Progress was made by fits and starts and in 1837 the first practical camera was introduced. The invention of photography caused change at a pace never seen before, and rarely seen since.
Eminent scientists, bumbling amateurs, and charlatans contributed advances – and vied for credit. Fortunes were made and lost. The development of photographic lenses caused the first ‘brain drain’ from academics to industry – at one point the German optics industry employed more Ph. D. mathematicians than did German Universities.
Even nations argued. France, England and Germany bickered for decades about where the camera was invented. International lawsuits kept photography out of England for a decade but let it flourish in Scotland. National arguments about the German optics industry after World War II created 3 separate companies in 3 different countries -- all with the same name, making the same products, and claiming rights to the same patents.
The history of imaging is a fascinating story containing remarkable scientific achievement, amazing accidents, more back stabbing and infighting than a daytime drama, and a few larger-larger-than life characters – both saints and sinners.
Roger Cicala received his M. D. in 1986. He spent 12 years (not all in a row) as Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee. In the interim he practiced medicine, worked in pharmaceutical research, and for the Drug Enforcement Agency. In 2005 he left medicine to make a career of his hobby, photography. He founded Lensrentals, Inc., which has since become the largest photography and imaging equipment rental company in the United States. His primary interest for the last several years has been the history of photography and imaging, about which he writes frequently.