WHIPPLE, JOHN ADAMS. 1822-1891.
A view of the Moon, from Harvard College Observatory, Cambridge, MA, c.1857, lightly albumenized print, 5 x 4 inches (130 x 105 mm), corners trimmed.
Whipple was the first person in the USA to manufacture the chemicals needed for daguerreotypes. From around 1847 to 1860, he collaborated with William Bond and his son George Phillips Bond at the Harvard College Observatory. Their daguerreotype of the Moon won a prize at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, and opened the eyes of the world to the potential of astronomical photography. The 15-inch Great Harvard Refractory which they used was fitted with a clockwork drive mechanism, allowing the telescope to track the Moon and permitting long exposures and sharp images (Hughes p 189).
In 1850, Whipple received a patent for the albumen-on-glass negative process, and began to produce salt prints from the plates, although he continued to work with daguerreotypes. The present photograph, like others in the Metropolitan Museum and MoMA attributed to Whipple and his partner James Black, exhibits a faint "mask" surrounding the Moon. Whipple and Black are known to have copied their daguerreotypes using glass negatives, and the mask may have served to cover the reflective blank areas of the daguerreotype. The present image, however, shows more detail than one would expect from a daguerreotype copy. Given Whipple's experimentation with photographic chemistry and processes, the precise method behind this print is unclear.