|Born in College Street Bristol on 7th September 1855, William Friese-Greene
set up his own studios in Bath & Bristol, the grandly named 'Photographic
Institute'. It was in Bath that he made the acquaintance of John Arthur
Roebuck Rudge, a tall gaunt bearded inventor of magic lanterns. J.A.R.
Rudge had devised a latern, the 'Biophantoscope', which could display seven
slides in rapid succession, giving the illusion of movement. William found
the idea amazing and irrisistible, and started work on his own camera -
a camera to record real movement as it occured. His toil was rewarded,
when he became the first man to ever witness moving pictures on a screen.
Patent No. 10,131, for a camera with a single lens to record movement was registered on 10th May 1890, but the cost of development drives him into bankruptcy and brings him a short sentence in debtors' prison.
Friese-Greene takes out 78 British patents between 1889 and 1921 but none becomes the basis of an industry. He works on stereoscopic film, stage effects and colour film, develops a process for producing photographic cigarette cards and another eventually becomes the first X-ray examination system in Britain.
Constantly fighting to avoid bankruptcy, Friese-Greene was 66 when he attended a meeting of film moguls in London. Alarmed by the animosity between them, he stood up to speak but became incoherent. Helped back to his seat, he slumped forward and was found to be dead. He had just a shilling and 10 pence in his pocket - the price of a cinema ticket at the time.
On the hour of his funeral, all the cinemas in Britain halted their films and held a two minute silence in belated respect to 'The Father of the Motion Picture'.