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William K. L. Dickson

AKA William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson

Born: 3-Aug-1860
Birthplace: Chateau St. Buc, France
Died: 28-Sep-1935
Location of death: Twickenham, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Film/TV Producer

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Motion picture camera

William K. L. Dickson was overshadowed in fame by his employer, Thomas Edison, who owned the patents for Dickson's inventions, but it was Dickson who invented the kinetograph -- the first motion picture camera. His device took a rapid succession of photographs that, when viewed in a kinetoscope "peepshow" viewing device, created the illusion of motion. Dickson devised the system of emulsion for chemically treating film, designed the sprocket and wheel system that advanced film through the camera, and for reasons of stability widened his film stock to 35 millimeters, still the standard size for commercial motion pictures.

He designed the first movie studio, Edison's "Black Maria" complex in West Orange, New Jersey, where he made (and starred in) Dickson Greeting, a three-second shot of Dickson waving at the camera. Made in 1891, it was not the first motion picture, but it was the first to be projected for viewing by an audience. He also played the violin in the earliest surviving sound film, 1894's Dickson Experimental Sound Film. After leaving Edison's employ, Dickson was a founder of American Mutoscope and Biograph Co. Considered the first "major" movie studio, AMBC evolved into American Biograph, and produced hundreds of silent films, including some of D. W. Griffith's early works. Dickson eventually left the film business and returned to England, where he worked as an electrical engineer. He was married twice, and had one adopted son.

Father: James Waite Dickson (astronomer)
Mother: Elizabeth Kennedy-Laurie Dickson
Sister: Antonia Dickson (author)

    English Ancestry
    Scottish Ancestry

Author of books:
The Life and Inventions of Thomas Alva Edison (1894, with Antonia Dickson)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #3064 (32, issued 22-Feb-1996)



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