Louis Ducos du Hauron - Successes and disappointments


True, Louis Ducos du Hauron didn’t take advantage of his inventions. But is it the worst thing ?

His inventions are still exploited. Be it colour photography, the cinematographic principle or still his optical research in particular on anamorphosis which is the image of distorted objects and their correction by a device, which is particularly useful for the mirror objectives of astronomical scopes or telescopes, thanks to which, in his time especially, the lunar cycle, ingrained in our collective psyche, could be observed. Even if the process he designed is still applied in observatories and as soon as it was operational, was set up to observe the heavenly universe.


As for his substractive principle of light to reproduce colours, the American Georges Eastman who created Kodak applied it after his death, notably in the 1930s.

It was used for the flexible negative roll film of Kodacolor. And Agfa, the German firm for Agfacolor, used it. His three-colour process also spearheaded today’s digital pictures.

His inventions are still present in our everyday life. But their inventor has been consigned to oblivion.

While he was alive, the only laurels earned by Louis Ducos du Hauron were a few medals, in 1870 that of Palais des Champs-Élysées, in 1876 that of the eleventh exhibition of the French photographic society and, in the same year, that of Union des Beaux-Arts. In 1879, he received the medal of the industrial exhibition of Agen whose municipality also granted him the Medal of Honour of the town. He was admitted to the Legion of Honour in 1912.


In 1876, however an opportunity was finally offered to Louis Ducos du Hauron on the occasion of the universal exhibition where he presented his first colour photographs.

They attracted the attention of a German, Eugène Albert, of Munich, who, as an intuitive person, envisaged the industrialization of these discoveries. He met the inventor from Agen and, it was reported, offered him a fortune if he developed the printing of his pictures in Germany.

But by sheer patriotism, Louis Ducos du Hauron only wanted his products to be « Made in France » and turned down the attractive offer.

The industrial application of his invention by a Toulouse printer, with whom he signed a contract, unfortunately was aborted. The latter’s firm was destroyed by a violent fire.

His last abode, rue Lamouroux in Agen


Ducos du Hauron was really unlucky throughout his post-invention.

After his brother’s death, he only survived; rue Lamouroux in Agen, thanks to the money granted by the Society of Arts and Letters, the town of Agen, and the Lumière brothers who had taken over his patent for the animated image, the future cinematograph.

And then in spite of his genius inventions, he remained unknown even if, in 1948, the mayor of Agen, Alexis Pain, inaugurating the plaque affixed on the façade of the house, rue Lamouroux, where he spent his retirement years, declared : « The veil of oblivion has just torn. A light breeze carries, like a cloud in the bright sky of Gascony, these twin sisters: indifference and ingratitude ».

The municipality of doctor Esquirol named the former Rodrigues junior school after him.


Louis Ducos du Hauron died amid widespread indifference a hundred years ago. This indifference is unacceptable. It is an insult to intelligence, passion and research. We do not accept it. Though sometimes, is notoriety is revealed, in a newspaper article, a sentence in a book, it covers it again quickly enough and impostures reappear. The fact that foreign publications are unaware of Louis Ducos du Hauron may at most be understandable. But is it acceptable of domestic publications? This is not in any way to support the idea that keeping Ducos du Hauron out of the limelight is a new proof of contempt by the «intelligentsia » for the provinces. No, and yet. How many scientists, artists, writers who refused Parisian life, remain unknown because they are relegated to the Gehenna of the damned. Then too bad; and let’s be as Jacobin as they are. Louis Ducos du Hauron is a Gascon genius and will remain so beyond his glory, which hopefully will be worldwide.

Louis Ducos du Hauron