Sir Charles Wheatstone

Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802 - 1875) was born in Barnwood in England. Wheatstone was the first to create a device that allows 3D viewing from two "flat" pictures. He also gave the name for such instrument: the stereoscope. Here is what he wrote in his work "On some remarkable, and hitherto unobserved, Phenomena of Binocular Vision":

"It being thus established that the mind perceives an object of three dimensions by means of the two dissimilar pictures projected by it on the two retinae, the following question occurs: What would be the visual effect of simultaneously presenting to each eye, instead of the object itself, its projection on a plan surface as it appears to that eye?


...the two pictures (or rather their reflected images) are placed in [the instrument] at the true concourse of the optic axes, the focal adaptation of the eye preserves its usual adjustment, the appearance of lateral images is entirely avoided, and a large field of view for each eye is obtained. The frequent reference I shall have occasion to make to this instrument, will render it convenient to give it a specific name, I therefore propose that it be called a Stereoscope, to indicate its property of representing solid figures."

Initially Whatstone experimented with stereoscopic pictures drawn by hand. With the advancement of photography he started experimented with the "sun pictures". Some of the first were produced for him in 1840 by Henry Fox Talbott others were produced by Talbott's licensee Henry Collen who took a stereoscopic portrait of Charles Babbage. In the 1840s other renowned photographers made pictures, mostly daguerreotypes to be seen in a Wheatstone stereoscope, among them Antoine Claudet, and others.

In spite of his precedence Wheatstone's device, being bulky and difficult in operation, did not become popular. It was not before another British scientist, Sir David Brewster, imagined a portable device that would use a single card with two images, that the stereoscope began to conquer the Victorian world.

Charles Wheatstone English inventor of stereoscope circa 1868
Charles Wheatstone mirror stereoscope for viewing separated stereoviews