Lippman's scientific talents were varied, but he was best known for his contributions in the fields of optics and electricity. He did early, important studies of piezoelectricity (precursors of Pierre Curie's work) and of induction in resistanceless, or superconductive, circuits (precursors of Heike Kammerlingh-Onnes' validations). He also invented the coleostat, an instrument that allowed for long-exposure photographs of the sky by compensating for the Earth's motion during the exposure.
In 1891 Lippmann revealed a revolutionary colour-photography process,
later called the Lippmann process, that utilized the natural colours
of light wavelengths instead of using dyes and pigments. He placed a
reflecting coat of mercury behind the emulsion of a panchromatic plate.
The mercury reflected light rays back through the emulsion to interfere
with the incident rays, forming a latent image that varied in depth
according to each ray's colour. The development process then reproduced
this image, and the result, when viewed, was brilliantly accurate. This
direct method of colour photography was slow and tedious because of
necessarily long exposure times, and no copies of the original could
be made. It never achieved popularity, therefore, but it was an important
step in the development of colour photography.
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