William de Wiveleslie Abney

William de Wiveleslie Abney

Infobox Scientist
name = William de Wiveleslie Abney
box_width =

image_width =150px
caption = William de Wiveleslie Abney
birth_date = July 24, 1843
birth_place = Derby, England
death_date = December 3, 1920
death_place = Folkestone, England
residence =
citizenship =
nationality = English
ethnicity =
field = astronomy chemistry photography
work_institutions =
alma_mater =
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for = photography
author_abbrev_bot =
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influences =
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religion =
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William de Wiveleslie Abney FRS (July 24, 1843 - December 3, 1920) was an English astronomer, chemist, and photographer.


Abney was born in Derby, England, to a clergyman father. He attended Rossall School, the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and joined the Royal Engineers in 1861, with whom he served in India for several years. Thereafter, and to further his knowledge in photography, he became a chemical assistant at the Chatham School of Military Engineering.

Abney was a pioneer of several technical aspects of photography. His endeavors in the chemistry of photography produced useful photographic products and also developments in astronomy. He wrote many books on photography that were considered standard texts at the time, although he was doubtful that his improvements would have a great impact on the subject.

Abney investigated the blackening of a negative to incidental light. In 1874, Abney developed a dry photographic emulsion, which replaced "wet" emulsions. He used this emulsion in an Egyptian expedition to photograph the transit of Venus across the sun. In 1880, he introduced hydroquinone. Abney also introduced new and useful types of photographic paper, including in 1882 a formula for gelatin silver chloride paper.

Abney conducted early research into the field of spectroscopy, developing a red-sensitive emulsion which was used for the infrared spectra of organic molecules. He was also a pioneer in photographing the infrared solar spectrum (1887), as well as researching sunlight in the medium of the atmosphere.

Abney invented the "Abney Level", a combined clinometer and spirit level, used by surveyors to measure slopes and angles.

He died in Folkestone, England.


* Chemistry for Engineers (1870)
* Instruction in Photography (1871)

Organizations and honors

* Royal Photographic Society (president)
** 1892 to 1894
** 1896
** 1903 to 1905
* Royal Astronomical Society (president)
** 1893 to 1895.
* Physical Society of London (president)
** 1895 to 1897
* Girls' Public Day School Trust (vice-President)
** 1909 to 1920
* Royal Society (fellow)
** 1876 and
* Knighted
** 1900


* " [...] whatever little notions of art a person might have in his head would certainly be driven out of it, for the knowledge that he could take an almost unlimited number of pictures would lead him to expose a sheet on every possible occasion, and probably 99 percent of what he obtained would be thoroughly inartistic productions".

ee also

* Abney effect


* "Abney, William de Wiveleslie." Britannica Student Encyclopedia. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Further reading

* cite encyclopedia
last = Dieke
first = Sally
title = Abney, William de Wiveleslie
encyclopedia = Dictionary of Scientific Biography
volume = 1
pages = 21-22
publisher = Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
date = 1970
isbn = 0684101149

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