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Before the development of the photographic camera, it had been known for hundreds of years that some substances, such as silver salts, darkened when exposed to sunlight. In a series of experiments, published in 1727, the German scientist Johann Heinrich Schulze demonstrated that the darkening of the salts was due to light alone, and not influenced by heat or exposure to air. The Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele showed in 1777 that silver chloride was especially susceptible to darkening from light exposure, and that once darkened, it becomes insoluble in an ammonia solution. The first person to use this chemistry to create images was Thomas Wedgwood. To create images, Wedgwood placed items, such as leaves and insect wings, on ceramic pots coated with silver nitrate, and exposed the set-up to light. These images weren't permanent, however, as Wedgwood didn't employ a fixing mechanism. He ultimately failed at his goal of using the process to create fixed images created by a camera obscura.

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