Julius Neubronner: apothecary, inventor, and a pioneer of amateur film and (pigeon) photography
January 9, 2012 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Julius Neubronner, born in Germany in 1852, was the son of Wilhelm Neubronner. Wilhelm carried on the family-run pharmacy and had introduced rapid medicine delivery by way of carrier pigeon (Google books). Julius continued the family practice, including pigeon-delivery. As a young boy, Julius was interested in the then-newly invented cameras, and his hobby and his career merged when a once-punctual pigeon took was waylaid a month. Interested to find the source of the delay, Julius placed a miniature camera on the pigeon to see where it went. The effort was successful, and he improved upon the design, patenting a panoramic pigeon-carried camera that resulted in novel photos. Julius is also distinguished as an early German experimenter in amateur silent film. His recordings, including daily life, historic events, and film magic, were restored in 1996 (Google Quickview; original PDF).
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fun fact: the original patent request was rejected by the German patent office as it was deemed impossible, due to "a misconception about the carrying capacity of domestic pigeons." Once the invention was functionally demonstrated, the patent was issued.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:13 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Today, a corporation would patent the pigeon also.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2012


I am pretty negative about pigeons (they are dirty, clueless, and basically give avians a bad name), but, I have to say, they look adorably bewildered with those cameras on.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:45 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those cameras look really big and clumsy on the pigeons. I can't imagine how much more effort it must have taken to fly around with those things strapped to them.

No wonder they were too pooped to post to their Flickr accounts.
posted by xingcat at 10:53 AM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish men still looked like him.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:25 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's always fun to hear the story behind a phrase that you've only ever heard in a song: Pigeon Camera
posted by davey_darling at 11:41 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


davey_darling, thanks for the song. From that, I came across history and references from the song, and a modern-day pigeon camera experiment, complete with pictures from the experiment (2.35 mb PDF). The images are mostly warped and blurry, but still fun to see.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those cameras look really big and clumsy on the pigeons. I can't imagine how much more effort it must have taken to fly around with those things strapped to them.

It could grip it by the husk.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only other way to get pictures like that in those days would have been with a hot air balloon.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:29 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were also rocket-mounted cameras and cameras on kites, the latter which captured the ruins of San Francisco in 1906, in the wake of the Great Earthquake and subsequent fires.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:48 PM on January 9, 2012


I'm the person who did the pigeon cam stuff referred to above about ten years ago. I'm happy to answer questions if people have any.

It's amazing what Neubronner accomplished given how much heavier cameras were back then. I had a lot of trouble making a camera that my pigeons could carry.
posted by amosl at 2:07 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's amazing what Neubronner accomplished given how much heavier cameras were back then.

Wikipedia says they were "30 to 75 grams (1.1 to 2.6 oz)." That's lighter than what you were using.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:14 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, thanks for chiming in, amosl! Have you thought of trying again with some of the tiny, cheap cameras on the market now, like the 808 Car Keys Micro Camera?
posted by filthy light thief at 3:56 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical.
posted by telstar at 7:17 PM on January 9, 2012


I actually like pigeons. They have some very cool abilities, and have been of help to people. If you feed them cleanly they are edible, and they can carry messages. The camera thing is very interesting. I wonder how Neubronner got the birds to cooperate with these cameras being strapped onto then?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:05 PM on January 9, 2012


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