Joseph Petzval

Joseph Petzval had an unfortunate life.

He was a great inventor. Thanks to him, lens designers were inspired to create lenses free from aberration of light. His invention, Petzval Portrait was proven to be the best by comparing it to the closest competitor, Chevalier’s lens.

Though being superior, Petzval was denied from prize he deserved. Being the frenchman, Chevalier won platinum award, skipped the gold award entirely, leaving Petzval credited with just silver award (accompanied with a handshake, minus the fame). Back then, France was hailed as the place of arts (more like nude photos and sculptures, the precursor of still images pornography). French being french, they took pride only in fellow countrymen’s masterpiece, granting the odds to be in Chevalier’s favor.

Then the history played a turn on Chevalier’s success, when his lens didn’t fare the glory. Petzval Potrait thrived better.

But then, Petzval died penniless. Why? His best friend, Frederich von Voigtlander, backstabbed Petzval by selling the invention on his behalf. Voigtlander escaped the patent madness by moving the production to Germany, because Petzval only had Austrian patents on his invention.

Petzval was a mathematician, and mathematics didn’t disappoint him. The portrait lens was born out of his prowess with numbers and computation. Though was brought to a low after Voigtlander stole his invention, he sprung back with a new invention, a landscape lens design known as Dialyte.

Once again the ladder he used to climb the rung upwards stepped onto himself. His house was burglarized, and his manuscripts were stolen. Nearly miracle, Voigtlander began producing a new kind of lens dubbed as Voigtlander Orthoskop, as you might have guessed, shared the same design as Petzval’s Dialyte.

He died penniless. His hatred with the unfortunate events downpoured on his life halted his journey to continue innovating in the field of optics, later died being a hermit at a monastery in 1891.


The history of lens is fraught with treachery.

History doesn’t forget itself.

We use photos today to deceive, to topple, to cheat, to slander, and to tarnish.

A vicious cycle.


18 Feb 2016© 2024 / Built with Astro