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"Imagine a world without photography; one could only imagine." – Berenice Abbott


Photography was adopted as a scientific tool nearly from its inception. Astrophotography is one of the oldest scientific applications, with astronomers taking images of celestial bodies immediately after the invention of the daguerreotype.

The power of the medium to produce authentic, accurate representations of natural phenomena made it a clear choice over artists’ renderings, removing interpretation and inaccuracy. Covering both the natural world and man-made structures, scientific photography illuminates what cannot be seen with the human eye, illustrates phenomena, documents the human body, and captures new observations of what has not been seen before.

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) began studying the principle of motion using photography as early as 1872. His seminal work, Animal Locomotion (1887) was an eleven-volume work which comprised 781 plates created from over 19,000 individual images. Medical photography is significant in clinical documentation, teaching, and research. Frederick T.D. Glendening was a pioneer of medical photography in the late nineteenth century. His medical photographs provided valuable resources for diagnosis and analysis of conditions on the outside of the body. German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen was the first to photograph human bones through flesh using x-ray in 1895, and, with it, came photography’s first clinical application.

Time-lapse photography, high-speed photography, and photomicroscopy record a flower blossoming over time, make visible the hummingbird’s flight, and presents the invisible world of cellular structures. This ability to capture the elegance of nature, from distant galaxies to subatomic particles, is used in a variety of fields, including chemistry, physics, astronomy, botany, biology, engineering, medicine, forensics, and more. It has been used to advance all manner of scientific study by depicting accurately new discoveries, enabling diagnoses, and supporting theories.

Scientific photographs often become works of art themselves, with the vibrant colors, eye-pleasing symmetry, and delicate patterns. Science photography also helps make the world accessible to the layperson.

Roderick Cave (b. 1935) and Geoffrey Wakeman (d. 1987)

Typographia naturalis. Wymondham, Leicestershire : Brewhouse P., 1967.
Unidel Collection of the History of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Shown here is a “modern” specimen of nature printing by Morris Cox (1903-1998) of Gogmagog Press. Nature printing is a method of taking direct prints from natural objects which, though dating back centuries, advanced technically as a printing process at the same time developments were made with photography in England in the 1840s. The life-like accuracy of the detailed nature prints were enabled by intaglio engraving on plates which were rolled and printed on a relief printing press. Geoffrey Wakeman, proprietor of Plough Press, was a scholar of printing history and paper. Wakeman believed the only way to properly study the history of paper and printing was by examining actual specimens of historic printing processes. Many of his publications, such as Typographica naturalis, are leaf books with specimens of printing processes tipped-in. This volume includes specimens of an original nature print by Henry Bradbury (1831-1860), well known for The Ferns of Great Britain and Ireland (1857) and The Nature-printed British seaweeds (1859-1860), both of which are available in the Horticulture Collection in Special Collections.

This is copy number 309 of a limited edition of 333 numbered copies

Linda Connor (b. 1944) and Charles Simic (b. 1938)

On the music of the spheres.New York : Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art, c1996.

Limited to an edition of three hundred and fifty copies, this is number 259, signed by the photographer Linda Connor and the poet Charles Simic. On the music of the spheres contains 15 photographic prints, including some from historic astronomical photographic plates by E.E. Barnard and others. An original signed platinum palladium print by the artist is laid-in. The photographs were printed by the Allethaire Press from half-tones created by Robert Hennessey. The type was printed by the Grenfell Press. The print shown here is printed from the original glass plate, cracks and all, but the image still conveys the miraculous wonder of early astronomical photography that allowed closer study of the heavens. This was the sixteenth publication in the Artists and Writers Series of the Library Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

frontispiece of elderly couple from Humphry's "Old Age"

Sir George Murray Humphry (1820-1896)

Old age : the results of information received respecting nearly nine hundred persons who had attained the age of eighty years, including seventy-four centenarians. Cambridge, England : Macmillan and Bowes, 1889.

The plates in this study of longevity are original photographs, mounted on pages, but a color facsimile is laid-in here to protect the original image facing the title page. Other plates depict medical images such as aged bones. The text was reprinted, with additions, from the British Medical Journal and the Collective Investigation Record.







ghost photograph from De Fontenay's "La Photographie"


G. (Guillaume) De Fontenay.

La photographie et l'étude des phénomènes psychiques : abrégé de trois conférences données par l'auteur à la Société universelle d'études psychiques, en 1910 et 1911. Préface de M. d'Arsonval. Paris : Gauthier-Villars, 1912.

Spirit photography was a nineteenth-century phenomenon in which photographs were believed to document ghosts in portraits with living sitters. American spirit photographer William Mumler (1832-1884) was arrested and tried for fraud and larceny in 1869, but was acquitted because the deception could not be uncovered. For serious practitioners of photography, spirit photography made a mockery of photography as a technological medium. For believers, spirit photography did not contradict scientific principles; it was instead an empirical means by which to prove the existence of spirits. The photographic medium could provide access to what the eye could not see. Spirit photography catered to the nineteenth-century culture of mourning, and especially to women. It proved a lucrative business.


Jim JenkinsCyanotype of botanical speciment from Jenkins's Photographs of British algae

Photographs of British algae : cyanotype impressions. Steyning, West Sussex : Imagineer Classic Photography, 1993.
Lammot du Pont Memorial Collection, a gift of Edith du Pont Pearson

Mounted here are color facsimiles of the title page and cyanotype print from a commemorative edition of photographs of British algae, originally made by British naturalist Anna Atkins between 1843 and 1853. Jim Jenkins printed modern cyanotypes and dedicated his book to the memory of Atkins and her close friend Anne Dixon, who pioneered the use of the cyanotype process for illustrating botanical specimens. This autographed copy is number 8 of an edition of 50.



Photograph of alopecia from Fox's Photographic atlas of the diseases of the skinGeorge Henry Fox, M.D. (1846-1937)

Photographic atlas of the diseases of the skin : ... with descriptive text and a treatise on cutaneous therapeutics. Physician’s edition. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott, 1903, c1902.
gift in memory of Samuel Moyerman, Esquire

The color illustrations for this encyclopedic study of skin diseases were produced by hand coloring Artotypes (collotypes), which is a cost-efficient photomechanical printing process founded on the action of light to harden a bichromated gelatin film.




A. Felix (Alexis Felix) Du Pont (1879-1948)Underwater photograph from Felix Du Pont's "under sea with helmet and camera"; photograph of hummingbird from Greenewalt's "hummingbirds"; front cover of Susan Ellis's "aliens among us"

Under sea with helmet and camera : experiences of an amateur / by A. Felix Du Pont ; with illustrations from photographs taken by the author. New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1940.
gift of Alain Singer

Describing underwater adventures off the coast of the Bahamas, this copy is inscribed by the author to Fred and Simone Singer. A. Felix Du Pont, Sr. was a director and vice president of E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co. and father of the aviation pioneer A. Felix Du Pont, Jr.




Crawford H. Greenewalt (1902-1993)

Hummingbirds ; with a foreword by Dean Amadon. Garden City, N. Y. : Published for the American Museum of Natural History by Doubleday, c1960.

Crawford Greenewalt was an American chemical engineer and former president of the DuPont Company (1948-1962), but among his many diversions was a deep interest in ornithology. With the pioneering assistance of high-speed photography via his friend Harold E. "Doc" Edgerton, Greenewalt published this book of 70 high-speed photographs of hummingbirds in 1960. Edgerton (1903-1990), who along with Greenewalt was a graduate of MIT, is credited with popularizing the stroboscope beyond its once exclusive use in scientific laboratories. This copy is signed by the author.





Susan E. (Susan Elizabeth) Ellis (b. 1953)

Aliens among us : a book of insect portraits. Brandywine, MD : Imago Press, c2005.

Susan Ellis, an expert in macro photography, is a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and also teaches photography at the Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington. Aliens among us is a perfect reflection of her scientific and artistic examinations of life on a micro scale. Ellis is a member of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association as well as the Philadelphia Photographic Society. This copy is signed by the photographer.


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