Richard Leach Maddox
b. 4 August 1816; d. 11 May 1902
Dr. Richard Maddox, an English physician, worked on photo-micrography and wrote on various photographic topics, but it was not until 1871 that his greatest contribution to the science of photography was made. Up to his time, wet collodion plates were being used. These required that coating, exposure and development be done whilst the solution was still wet, and soon the need for pre-prepared plates became evident.
Maddox, a photography enthusiast, first started looking around for a substitute to collodion when he found his health being affected by the ether vapor of the collodion process. In an article in the British Journal of Photography for 8 September 1871 he suggested a process whereby the sensitizing chemicals could be coated on a glass plate in a Gelatin emulsion, instead of wet collodion. Probably he had no idea at the time of the significance his discovery would have on the future of photography.
Some years later Charles Bennett and others made the first gelatin dry plates for sale on the open market, a revolutionary advance in the science of photography. By the end of that decade the dry plate process had superseded the wet plate one entirely, and within a further ten years the emulsion would be coated on celluloid roll film.
In 1901 Maddox received the Royal Photographic Society’s Progress Medal for inventions that led to the foundation of the dry plate and film industry. He had freely made his ideas known, and never patented the process; sadly he ended his days in poverty.