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By Sean F. Johnston

This can be a heritage of the hidden workings of actual technological know-how - a technical endeavour embedded in a social context. It argues that this 'undisciplined' topic, straddling academia, trade and legislation, should be normal not just of twentieth century technological know-how, yet of its destiny.

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The first decades of photographic technology were thus dominated by the investigation of new lightsensitive materials, methods of development and 'fixing' processes25. Of greater importance to the photographer was exposure time, which was precisely controllable simply by shielding the plate from the scene to be photographed. Within very broad limits, photographers discovered, exposure time and light intensity could be traded off26. Moreover, neither was critical in its effect on photographic density: a factor of two either way (typically amounting to a latitude of a minute or so) did not seriously influence picture quality.

Mid-century efforts to characterize colour were frequently focused on the qualitative. Artists, having more practical experience with the subject than most men of science, were the instigators of several systems. David Rarnsay Hay (1798-1866), for example, wrote on 'the numerical powers and proportions of colours and hues' in 1846. His rather arbitrary numerical descriptions intermingled with the flowery language of the artist: 'Blue.. belongs more to the principle of darkness or shade.. and is consequently the most retiring of the three.

Opt. Convention 1 (London) pp 238-44. 24 By William Abney, whose contributions to the subject are treated at greater length in chapter 4. 25 This is illustrated by the great diversity of processes available by 1860. The earliest reported process of Nikpce had relied upon the effect of light on the solubility to oil of a preparation of asphalt; the later daguerreotype employed a surface of silver, sensitized with iodine vapour, developed after exposure by mercury vapour, and 'fixed' by immersion in hot brine; the calotype process, by contrast, used paper soaked in silver salts, and was fixed by sodium iodide.

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