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The Hologram and its Antecedents 1891–1965: The Illusory History of a Three–Dimensional Illusion



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Gamble, Susan Ann 


Since 1962, a photographic invention by Gabriel Lippmann (1845-1921), his Nobel Prize winning interference colour photograph of 1891, has been cited by physicists as the antecedent of the three-dimensional hologram. However, Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) in his original publications on the hologram of 1948 and 1949 did not cite Lippmann’s work. This thesis explores how the hologram that featured in Gabor’s original theory, as an imaging technique to improve the electron-microscope, was significantly different from the hologram for which Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971. The citation of Lippmann’s work as the antecedent to the hologram confirmed that the hologram was to be seen as a three-dimensional photograph, and attempted to give the invention a progressive historical lineage that would conform to photography’s existing history. This popular narrative, as demonstrated in this text, could overlook the pursuit of the hologram for Cold War surveillance by researchers at the University of Michigan on behalf of the United States military. This technology was, from 1955, engaged with aerial radar image processing, a significant application that was classified and hidden from the public, and initially from Gabor himself. Two researchers at the University of Michigan, Emmett Leith (1927–) and Juris Upatnieks (1936–) attracted the attention of the popular press for their development of a three-dimensional laser hologram. This thesis reveals the fragmented nature of the new discipline at the peak of holography’s popularity. This analysis explores some of the historical traits between the two Nobel Prize winning inventions, the Lippmann photograph and the hologram, that were exploited to promote a new imaging medium to the public. In presenting these technologies as images the text also reviews devices and papers––some cited within the popular Lippmann-to Gabor historical narrative––by father and son Frederic (1856-1937) and Herbert Ives (1882-1953), that have competed to produce a three-dimensional full-colour image.





Schaffer, Simon


hologram, Gabor, lenticular, photography, Lippmann


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Funded with a grant from Arts and Humanities Research Board UK