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Cinema Before Cinema: The Origins of Scientific Cinematography Paperback – 17 Nov 2005

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Cinema Before Cinema is an essential text for all those interested in the history of cinema, the history of photography, and the application of moving images to the needs of education and science.

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Most histories of the cinema tell us that it began with the first public screening of the Cinématographe Lumière in Paris on 28 December 1895. This classic book, published for the first time in English, argues for another history of cinema, one which had its origins in the research needs of nineteenth-century scientists. Scientists such as Étienne-Jules Marey, Georges Demeny, Jules Janssen, Albert Londe, Ottomar Anschütz and the maverick Eadweard Muybridge were keenly interested in the analysis of motion through photography. Their technological breakthroughs led to the cinema we know today, but their true inheritors were not the producers of cinema as spectacle, but a dedicated band of scientists, doctors, anthropologists and naturalists inspired by their work who established the art of scientific cinematography.

Virgilio Tosi traces the roots of scientific cinematography back to the pioneering discoveries in the mid-nineteenth century of Roget, Plateau, Stampfer, Purkyn_ and others, through to the huge achievements in sequence photography made by the twin giants of the field, Muybridge and Marey. He tells of the achievements of those chronophotographers who followed Marey in particular, and looks at the innovations at the turn of the century of such noted scientific filmmakers as Lucien Bull, Jean Comandon and Eugène-Louis Doyen. A new chapter brings the author’s research up to date, while calling for the search for the origins of scientific cinematography to go on.

Cinema Before Cinema is an essential text for all those interested in the history of cinema, the history of photography, and the application of moving images to the needs of education and science.

Originally published as Il cinema prima di Lumière.
If one looks for a comprehensive history of the origins of scientific film and the quest for its practical applications, Virgilio Tosi’s work still stands out as the truly indispensable work on the subject.
Paolo Cherchi Usai

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