Louis Lumière Biography

Louis Lumière and his brother Auguste were French inventors who revolutionized the world of motion pictures. With their groundbreaking invention, the cinematograph, they not only created the first true motion picture but also paved the way for the future of filmmaking. Born into a family of photographers, Louis’s passion for photography and the science behind it was ignited at a young age. Teaming up with his brother and their father, they developed cutting-edge photographic plates and made significant advancements in the still-photograph process. However, it was their foray into creating moving images that truly propelled them to success. Inspired by Edison’s Kinetoscope, they acquired the technology for the cinematograph and patented it in their own names. Their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895 was met with immense popularity, leading them to embark on a world tour, showcasing their invention in cities across the globe.

Quick Facts

  • French Celebrities Born In October
  • Also Known As: Louis Jean Lumière, Louis Jean Lumiere
  • Died At Age: 83
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Rose Winckler
    • Father: Antoine Lumière
    • Mother: Jeanne-Joséphine Costille
    • Siblings: Auguste Lumière, Edouard Lumière, France Lumière, Jeanne Lumière, Juliette Lumière
  • Born Country: France
  • Inventors
  • Business People
  • Died on: June 6, 1948
  • Place of Death: Bandol, France
  • Discoveries/Inventions: Autochrome Lumière, Color Photography

Childhood & Early Life

Louis Jean Lumière was born on October 5, 1864, in Besançon, France, to Claude-Antoine Lumière and Jeanne Joséphine Costille Lumière. He had three siblings—a sister named Jeanne and two brothers, Édouard and Auguste. His father was a painter turned photographer.

Louis became interested in photography at an early age, a fascination he shared with his elder brother Auguste. He was blessed with creativity, confidence, and a love for science and performed well at La Martiniere technical high school.

Career

After graduating from high school, Louis Lumière joined his brother and father to work in the photographic firm his father ran. This collaboration proved to be very fruitful, and the father and sons successfully developed a new, cutting-edge, “dry” photographic plate, dubbed the “blue label” plate. The invention was a commercial success as well, and over the next several years, the family accumulated a vast fortune manufacturing the plate. The money earned helped the brothers in funding further experimentation. Now they shifted their focus to color photography.

Their father retired in 1892, and the brothers now began working on developing motion-picture technology. Their prior experimentation in color photography came in much handy during this time. Their father went to a showing of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope in Paris and was much impressed by the equipment. He asked his sons to work on building a similar machine. At around the same time, French inventor Léon Bouly had invented a device called the cinematograph. Bouly was, however, unable to develop his machine further, so he sold his rights to the device and its name to the Lumière Brothers.

The brothers worked to improvise the cinematograph and were successful in building a device that combined a camera with a printer and projector. They patented the device in 1895 and made their first motion picture ‘Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon’ the same year. This film showed workers leaving the Lumière factory. They publicly screened the film at L’Eden, the world’s first and oldest cinema in southeastern France in September 1895. A few months later in December, they showed their film at the Grand Café on the boulevard des Capucines in Paris, which earned them wide public acclaim. This marked the beginning of cinema history.

Over the next few years, Louis Lumière made many short films, recording everyday French life—The arrival of a train, a toiling blacksmith, soldiers marching, a game of cards, and other ordinary day-to-day activities. Along with Auguste, he also made some comedy shorts. Having become fairly famous because of their movie making, the brothers went on to open theaters throughout the United States and toured all over the world with their cinematograph, visiting several cities like Brussels, Bombay, London, Montreal, New York, and Buenos Aires. Louis and Auguste Lumière are also credited with making the first newsreel, a film of the French Photographic Society Conference, and the first documentaries, four films about the Lyon fire department.

The brothers were also pioneers in the field of color photography. They patented a color photographic process, the “Autochrome Lumière,” in 1903, which was launched in the market in 1907. The Lumière company was a major producer of photographic products in Europe for much of the 20th century.

Awards & Achievements

Auguste and Louis Lumière were awarded the Elliott Cresson Gold Medal, the highest award given by the Franklin Institute, in 1909 for their work in color photography.

Major Works

The Lumière brothers are best known for being the first filmmakers in history. They patented the cinematograph and made the world’s first motion picture, ‘Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon,’ which they followed up with films like ‘L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat,’ ‘Carmaux, défournage du coke,’ and ‘L’Arroseur Arrosé.’

Personal Life & Legacy

Louis Lumiere died on June 6, 1948, aged 83.

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