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F. Dundas Todd

Early photographic innovator Frederick Dundas Todd was born to a working-class family in Springfield, Fife, Scotland on April 30, 1858. After his education at Springfield’s Free Church School and the Madras Schools at Ladybank and Cupar, he became a teaching apprentice. However, his frail health forced him to relinquish his rigorous teacher training and to pursue another career. He began studying phonography on his own, and quickly secured the position of writing master at one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious schools. He incorporated shorthand into his curriculum, and soon became an active member of the Scottish Phonographic Association.

Mr. Todd married Rebecca Keay in Dundee on July 31, 1885. Together, they would have five children - three sons and two daughters. Incredibly, all three sons became engineers. Shortly after his marriage, Mr. Todd became interested in photographic processes. He was particularly fascinated with the practice of photographing with the use of magnesium light. Along with a colleague, Mr. Todd invented the Todd-Forret lamp, a truly innovative flash photography instrument. This enabled the photographer to access light quickly. With its sturdy construction, this "blow-through" lamp generated a rapid flash of light that lasted for several seconds.

When he was not conducting photographic experiments, Mr. Todd was writing about photography, eager to share his knowledge with amateur and professional photographers alike. He wrote a monthly column on various photography topics for the Weekly Scotsman, and submitted several photographs to numerous publications. He was also an accomplished photographer in his own right, taking several portraits and landscape photographs such as "When the Summer Days Were Fine " His photograph "A Village Smithy" won the silver medal, which was the highest honor bestowed by the Amateur Photographer.


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