"The diaphote", 
York House Papers
14 April 1880, n°24, pp.1-2


L'hebdomadaire York House Papers  fut publié à Londres du 5 novembre 1879 au 2 novembre 1881, avec le sous-titre "A weekly journal for the families of the Army, Navy, and auxiliary forces". Il s'agit, comme son titre l'indique, d'un magazine d'information générale, plus que d'une publication de référence ou d'une publication technique.

Les éléments fournis par l'article pour croire à la véracité du récit sont bien maigres. R.E. Burns, dans Television. History of the formative years, parle de "scanty statements". L'auteur de l'article du quotidien londonien semble d'ailleurs indiquer qu'il pourrait bien y avoir quelque mystification dans cette nouvelle. De fait, l'histoire sera revendiquée en 1917 par H.E. Licks - pseudonyme du statisticien Mansfield Merriman - comme un canular dans son ouvrage Recreations in mathematics. (Voir notice)

L'allusion aux expériences menées l'année précédente dans le Sud de la France est assez mystérieuse. Il s'agit peut-être simplement d'une réminescence du télectroscope de Senlecq (lequel n'était pas du Midi, mais de Ardres, dans le Pas-de-Calais) et dont The Times s'était fait l'écho le 27 janvier 1879.

L'article sera repris, de manière écourtée, dans The Times, 24 April 1880 sous le titre "Seeing by telegraph".

Yet another marvel! We have long produced movement, heat and light by electricity, and of late we have fallen into the way of speaking, writting and drawing by telegraph. But now, it seems, we are to see by means of what is truly the magic wire. A Dr. H.E. Licks, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has invented an instrument which he calls the diaphote, and which has the power of showing, in a mirror at one end, the image of any object placed in front of a corresponding mirror at the other end. These mirrors are composed, the one of selenium and ebromium, and the other of selenium and iodide of silver, - substance very sensitive to light and heat.Each mirror is, moreover, built up of a number of small plates, and the corresponding couples are connected by separate wires. The receiving mirror is placed in a camera, and receives from a lens the pictures of any desired object. The various graduations of light and form failing on the plates of the mirror set up by variations in the electrical currents traversing the connecting wires. These variations cause changes in the plates composing the reproducing mirror, wich thereupon exhibits an image of the object. A public exhibition of this ingenious instrument took place very recently at Reading, in the United States. The receiving mirror was taken down to a room below the hall in which the spectators were assembled, and various objects, such an apple, a penknife, a dollar, a watch, part of the printed handbill &c., were successively placed in front of it, and immediately became visible to the audience ; and whre, at length, the head of a live kitten was thus seen by telegraph, the enthusiasm of all present was wrought up to frenzy. This read well, and in the interests of science we hope it is all true. We remember, though, that a year or so ago some experiments of an analogous nature was tried in the South of France, and an opinion was expressed that it might soon become possible to take photographs of objects at a distance, by means of electric currents and sensitive mirrors. 
It is just within the bounds of probability that an imaginative Yankee journalist may have read the account of these experiments, and may now be reproducing them, with circumstance and effects. At any rate, the inventor is clearly one wko "licks creation" and we need not to be too sceptical simply because he hails from Bethlehem.


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Dernière mise à jour : 11 mars 2002