John Benjamin Dancer
( b. October 8 1812; d. November 24 1887)
Mr. Dancer once described himself as “Optician, of Manchester, by appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales” also as an instrument maker. Dancer was also an early secretary of the London Camera Club. Some of his inventions were related to the use of light. In 1837 he applied the “Drummond light” to optical projectors, and it was he who created the term “lime-light”. He was the first to produced low-cost microscopes and used a solar one. Other inventions include a very accurate thermometer and an apparatus for checking the accuracy of rifle barrels.
No photographic process was attributed to him. However, his contribution to photography lies in the fact that he saw new applications in existing techniques.
In 1853 Dancer constructed the first twin-lens stereoscopic camera, taking up an idea by David Brewster. Up till that time, any stereoscopic photography process was very rudimentary. The photographer had after exposing the first frame will move the camera and exposing a second time – For the limitations of their technology these pictures had been of still life. Then Dancer’s new camera, an improved version of which was made three years later, produced two small negatives simultaneously and had wide angle lenses, and this permitted virtually instantaneous photography and therefore the photographing of moving as opposed to static scenes.
It is said that Dancer also made the first photographic lantern slides. Certainly, the introduction of the wet Collodion process would have prompted such an application, but whether in fact, he was the first to do this has not been confirmed.
His photo-micrography work still exists. In July 1840 he made a daguerreotype photograph of a flea, using a gas-illuminated microscope, and he also used a solar microscope. Micro- photographs were then sold at one shilling (5p) each, or ten shillings and six pence (52.5p)for a dozen.
His contribution to photography has not been sufficiently recognized (indeed, Beaumont Newhall, in his History of Photography, does not even mention him) and it is only more recently that this omission has been rectified.