Reade, Joseph Bancroft (DNB00)

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READE, JOSEPH BANCROFT (1801–1870), chemist, microscopist, and photographic discoverer, eldest son of Thomas Shaw Bancroft Reade and Sarah, his wife, daughter of Richard Paley, was born at Leeds, Yorkshire, on 5 April 1801. His father was the author of ‘Christian Retirement’ (1829), ‘Christian Experience’ (1832), and ‘Christian Meditations’ (1841), all issued (in 12mo) as ‘by a layman.’ From Leeds grammar school Joseph proceeded in 1820 to Trinity College, Cambridge, but soon migrated to Caius College, where he was elected a scholar. He graduated as a senior optime in 1825, and was ordained deacon in the same year as curate of Kegworth, Leicestershire. In 1826 he took priest's orders, and in 1828 proceeded M.A. From 1829 to 1832 he was curate of Halifax, from 1832 to 1834 incumbent of Harrow-on-the-Weald, and from 1839 to 1859 rector of Stone, Buckinghamshire, to which benefice he was presented by the Royal Astronomical Society. From 1859 to 1863 he was rector of Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire; and from 1863 till his death, rector of Bishopsbourne, near Canterbury.

Reade's earliest published papers belong to 1837, and deal with the structure, composition, and ash of plants. They were published in the ‘Philosophical Magazine,’ some of them having been communicated to the British Association. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1838, and in 1839 was one of the original members of the Microscopical Society. In April 1839 Reade discovered a mode of separating heat-rays from those of light by the use of a hemispherical lens, so as to enable pictures to be taken with safety by means of cemented achromatic objectives. At the same time he discovered the value of an infusion of galls as a sensitiser of paper treated with silver nitrate, and that of hyposulphite of soda for fixing the photographic image. He thus succeeded in taking the first microphotographs with the solar microscope, and exhibited some of his ‘solar mezzotints’ so obtained at the London Institution, at Leeds, and elsewhere. His methods were described in public lectures, during April and May 1839, by Edward William Brayley [q. v.]; but these lectures were not published, and consequently, though Reade's discoveries antedated those of William Henry Fox Talbot [q. v.], the latter was allowed in 1854 to renew the patent taken out by him in 1841. Reade's claims as a discoverer are recognised by Sir David Brewster in the ‘North British Review’ (August 1847) and by Captain Abney (Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed. xviii. 824), as well as by the jurors of the Paris exhibition of 1856, by whom he was honourably mentioned for some photographs of the moon. His chief other inventions were the hemispherical condenser for the microscope, commonly known as ‘Reade's kettledrum’ (1861), which he afterwards modified by the addition of two lenses, and the equilateral prism for microscopic illumination (1869). In addition to the twenty-five papers under Reade's name in the ‘Royal Society's Catalogue’ (v. 114 and viii. 710) is one on Roman coin-moulds from the ‘Numismatic Chronicle’ (1839); and among those enumerated are several on the microscopic structure of chalk and flint, on luminous meteors, and on the evolution of ammonia by animals, contributed to the ‘Annals and Magazine of Natural History,’ the ‘Transactions of the Microscopical Society,’ and the ‘British Association Reports,’ besides one on his observatory at Stone in the ‘Monthly Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society;’ and one on the use of gutta-percha as a substitute for glass in photography, in the ‘Journal of the Photographic Society.’ Reade became a member of this society in 1855, and was president of the Royal Microscopical Society at the time of his death, which took place at Bishopsbourne on 12 Dec. 1870. Reade married Charlotte Dorothea Farish, sister of Professor Farish of Cambridge, by whom he had three children, who all died young.

[Monthly Microscopical Journal, 1871, v. 92; information furnished by W. Paley Baildon, esq., his great-nephew.]

G. S. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.231
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