It’s the birthday of motion picture pioneer Auguste Lumière (1862). He was born in Besançon, France, and his father was a former painter who had taken up photography. Auguste and his younger brother Louis studied science in Lyon, and opened a successful business producing photographic plates. Their father returned home from a trip to Paris in 1894, full of descriptions of Thomas Edison’s new Kinetoscope: a peephole machine that pulled strips of film in front of a light source, creating the illusion of movement. The Lumière brothers began work on a device that would project the images, and in February 1895, they patented their cinématographe, which was an all-in-one camera, developer, and projector. A month later, they shot their first footage of workers leaving their factory in Lyon. They held their first public screening that December, showing 10 short films — each of them about a minute long — depicting scenes from everyday life. One film in particular provoked a strong reaction: the Lumières had filmed a train pulling into a station head-on, and the audience members screamed and scrambled out of their seats, believing the train was about to plow through the screen into the theater.
Auguste Lumière wasn’t much interested in pursuing further developments in motion picture technology, being more interested in medical research. He reportedly said, “My invention can be exploited … as a scientific curiosity, but apart from that it has no commercial value whatsoever.”