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Authors: Prof. Robin Williams and Gigi Williams

Important contributions to the field (1800-2000)

There is a substantial base of literature on invisible radiation photography covering over a thousand references. Unfortunately, much of it is repetitive, out-of-date, or inaccurate, and to record them all here would serve no useful purpose. This review serves only to highlight those significant "milestones" in the development of the field of infrared photography. Key references to applications can be found in the tabulated summaries for each of the techniques.

The beginnings of infrared photography can be found back in 1800 when Herschel discovered the infrared spectrum. It wasn't until the twentieth century, however, that any photographic records in these spectra were made. 1904 saw the possibility of extending the sensitivity of photographic film to the infrared region with the discovery of kryptocyanine (Kornfeld, 1938), and although infrared emulsions were not available commercially until the 1930's, Wood was the first to publish infrared photographs landscapes, taken in 1910. In 1919 Wood was also the first to present ultraviolet photographs of the human body. Robert Wood was therefore truly the founder of all invisible radiation photography.

Other key dates are :

1930 Gigon and Noverraz were the first to use the reflected infrared method to study a wide range of human tissue.
1933 Haxthausen applied the infrared technique to patients with varicose veins hidden by eczema, and also to the recording of various dermatological conditions.

Rawling demonstrated that human skin seemed to have a transmission in the infrared region as he had been able to reveal the beard of a clean shaven man.

Dekking demonstrated the ability of infrared rays to penetrate corneal opacities.

Wilson was the first to use the infrared technique for transillumination of the breast.
1934 Clark described infrared photographs of the face and noted that Negro skin appeared to reflect infrared radiation.
1935 Eggert, and Frohlich & Rodenacker, working independently, showed that oxyhaemoglobin reflected infrared and carboxyhaemoglobin absorbed it.
1936 Braga showed that fine superficial veins in sarcoma and angioma could be delineated by infrared photography and noted a penetration down to 1mm.
1945 Gibson showed the need for even "wrap-around" lighting, and the technique of unsharp masking for accentuating fine detail in the infrared record.

Bouton described the first application of infrared photography to the detection of cancer in the female breast.
1951 Dement and Culbertson were the first to apply reflected ultraviolet photography to dentistry.
1956 Abramson and Glazier described the first use of electronic flash in infrared photography.
1963 Aldis and Marshall showed that malignant melanomas absorbed infrared.
1973 Anselmo and Zawacki were the first to use infrared photography in the assessment of burns.
1977 Anselmo and Zawacki used a multi-channel television system for multi-spectral analysis of burns.
1981 Morton and Miller used the extended infrared sensitivity of the Newvicon tube to study breast lesions.
1982 Marshall applied electronic techniques to both infrared and ultraviolet recording of pigmented lesions of the skin.
1988 Murray was the first to use digital image analysis techniques on the reflected ultraviolet image for the diagnosis and assessment of pigmented lesions.


  • Kornfeld, G. 1938. "The limits of infrared sensitizing." J.Chem.Phys.:6:201-202.

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© 2002 Prof. Robin Williams and Gigi Williams - Disclaimer
Last modified: 3 May 2002