Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, Still Life, 1837

On this day in 1839 the world was officially introduced to the Daguerrotype at the French Academy of Sciences. This innovative process, which was named after its inventor Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, was the first publicly available means of creating photographs. Images were created by exposing a polished sheet of silver-plated copper treated with iodine to light for several minutes. Sealed with a mercury vapour and stabilized with salt water, each print was unique, remarkably detailed and permanent. The commercially viable method dominated for two decades, flourishing as people sought to immortalize their portraits and capture every facet of society, from landscapes to the grim realities of war, in a relatively instantaneous fashion.