Hurter and Driffield—How Bickering Denied Them Timely Recognition
I have just finished reading an article, Sensitometry Pioneers, by Ron Callender, published in Nov 2012 volume of the Royal Photographic Society Journal. I was astonished to learn that almost until a few days before Hurter's death in 1898 they had been constantly attacked for their crucial discoveries, and how those quarrels brought Hurter much grief.
As many of you may know, the HD, or characteristic curve is named after them. Vero Charles Driffield and Ferdinand Hurter formalised the relationship between: the emulsion, light exposure, the action of the developer, and the resulting negative densities. This started the discipline of sensitometry, and thanks to them, photography made its first stab at defining sensitivity of photographic materials. Whenever I read Stephen Benskin's, Ralph Lambrecht's, Bill Burke's, or Michael 1974's patient posts, and the many books about the Zone System, I always think back to Hurter and Driffield. Pardon me for summarising what I read in that RPS Journal, but I wanted to share it with you, as it is not available online.
In 1888 Hurter and Driffield pioneered actinograph speeding, which they improved four years later, as the H & D Speed System. That's where the trouble started, according to the correspondence unearthed by the article's author. Many dry plate manufacturers dreaded the idea of having a speed of their products measured by an independent, scientific method. Even worse, the authorities at the time, such as Captain William de Wiveleslie Abney, and other writers for the Photography magazine, actively attacked our pioneers through their writings, lectures, and even by supplying their own, mathematically shaky contradictions. They forced key Hurter and Driffield findings even off the very frst inaugural RPS memorial lecture, after their death!
Apparently, all of this sat under a dust cover in a pile of letters at RPS headquarters, until it was discovered, by Callender, six years ago, after RPS moved to Bath. How sad, but also how nice that 130 years later the truth has prevailed.
PS. Apparently, there is a booklet on the subject, called "Mr Driffield and Dr Hurter. Their lives & times in pictures" by Callender". If you search the web you can find references to it, I'll be getting a copy.
Last edited by Rafal Lukawiecki; 12-15-2012 at 12:13 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Interesting post. Thank you. For the last 35 years I've nearly always referred to film Gamma Curves as H&D Cures.
Fascinating; thanks for summarizing. Surely this is an article to seek out.
Somewhat related... I've been itnerested in that geenral topic lately and started reading, for the first time, Dunn's 'Exposure Manual'. There is a lot to be learned by going back to some of the earlier sources of wisdom.
Must have been an interesting time. Wet Collodion was better than any dry plates, but inconvenient. Amateurs demanded the more convenient dry plates even if it meant they were slower than what the pros used. And there were general quality and consistency issues that had to be resolved too...
(Your post led me to a preview online of .. Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography By John Hannavy pg. 438 which briefly mentions H&D emulsion speed in a chapter on dry plate gelatin negatives)
I love it. I hope they would have giggled, too.
Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble
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You are welcome, Bill. My apologies for the typo in your surname, too late to edit out my making it more British...
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
I'm going to look up the volume you mentioned.
if you want to see more of their work, i highly suggest the following book:
W. B. Ferguson, The Photographic Researches of Ferdinand Hurter & Vero C. Drieffield, Morgan & Morgan, Facsimile Edition, 1974
In the first half of the 20th century further valuable in-depth photographic research was conducted. Among others, Loyd A. Jones and his colleagues at the research laboratories of the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York deserve major credit and respect for their contribution. He and his team published several historic papers of which a few are most important to this book. Despite its age, this research is largely up-to-date and still a milestone in the evolution of photographic science. Contact your local library to obtain copies of these most valuable papers.
Loyd A. Jones, ‘The Evolution of Negative Film Speeds in Terms of Print Quality’, Journal of the Franklin Institute, Mar/1939, Page 297 - 354
Loyd A. Jones and C. N. Nelson, ‘A Study of Various Sensitometric Criteria of Negative Film Speeds’, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Mar/1940, Page 93 - 109
Loyd A. Jones and H. R. Condit, ‘The Brightness Scale of Exterior Scenes and the Computation of Correct Photographic Exposure’, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Nov/1941, Page 651 - 678
Loyd A. Jones and C. N. Nelson, ‘The Control of Photographic Printing by Measured Characteristics of the Negative’, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Aug/1942, Page 558 - 619
Loyd A. Jones and C. N. Nelson, ‘Control of Photographic Printing: Improvement in Terminology and Further Analysis of Results’, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Nov/1948, Page 897 - 920
Thank you, Ralph, very much. I have read excerpts from Jones papers, it would be interesting to approach the full works. I am fascinated by that period in the discovery of photographic systems and methods—I appreciate the shortlist, as also the extensive bibliography, which you have provided in Way Beyond Monochrome 2.
I have just exchanged a few emails with Dr Ron Callender, the author of the article, and he has agreed for me to post his email address here. For the "Mr Driffield and Dr Hurter. Their lives & times in pictures" booklet please email finlaggan -at-hotmail dot com.
Hi Rafal, I'm not sure that's exactly correct. I have an older book which is a reprint of the 1907 Investigations on the Theory of the Photographic Process, by Sheppard and Mees. Apparently they were students, and had proposed to do independent study in order to get their BSc degrees. Their proposal was accepted, thus the book.
Originally Posted by Rafal Lukawiecki
In one chapter, they gave a "historical introduction" on the "sensitometry of photographic plates." It seems the standard method of establishing speed was to find a minimum exposure where any effect on the plate could be seen. It was later set to some specific density, at least for one system.
Here's a small excerpt where H&D began to rock the boat:
Sheppard and Mees note that "there has been considerable doubt thrown on the fundamental experiments upon which it has been founded" and that they intend to largely repeat those experiments, with better accuracy.
In 1890 there was published by Messrs. Ferdinand Hurter and Vero C. Driffield, in the Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, a paper entitled "Photo-chemical Investigations," in the course of which they gave for the first time a method of determining the sensitiveness of plates which depends on the measurement of a series of densities instead of a single reading.
Curiously, the modern speed systems have settled back on a single fixed density point being used, albeit with a specified (sort of) development contrast. If you've read Steven Benskins posts, he seems to be a fan of the "fractional-gradient speed method," which is more complicated. Stephen doesn't get much support for his viewpoint either. Just an interesting parallel.