Mysterious Disappearance of Louis Le Prince

Several years before the work of Auguste, Louis Lumière and Thomas Edison; in October 1888, Louis Le Prince recorded the first moving images in Leeds at Roundhay Park and on Leeds Bridge using his single-lens camera and Eastman's paper film. However, he was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the United States because he mysteriously disappeared after boarding a Paris-bound train in Dijon on 16 September 1890.

Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince was born in Metz, France on 28 August 1842 and moved to Leeds in 1866 to work for John Whitley Partners of Hunslet Brass Founders. He was known as a chemist, an engineer, an inventor, also a filmmaker who shot the first moving pictures on paper film using a single lens camera.

In 1869 he married Elizabeth Whitley John's sister - a talented artist. The pair founded Leeds Technical School of Art.

In 1888 Le Prince was granted an American dual-patent on a 16-lens device that combined a motion picture camera with a projector. A patent for a single-lens type (MkI) was refused in America because of an interfering patent, yet a few years later the same patent was not opposed when the American Thomas Edison applied for one.

Louis Le Prince
By using his 16 lens camera, Louis Le Prince recorded the world's first moving images, at 160 Woodhouse Lane (a site now owned by the University of Leeds). His first film called "Roundhay Garden Scene" was created in 1888 and his second and more famous film called "Leeds Bridge Scene" came in the same year.

Two years later, in September 1890, Le Prince was preparing to go back to the UK to patent his new camera, to be followed by a trip to the US to promote it. Before his journey, he decided to return home and visit friends and family. Having done so, he left Bourges on 13 September to visit his brother in Dijon. He would then take the 16 September train to Paris, but when the train arrived, his friends discovered that Le Prince was not on board. He was never seen again by his family or friends. No luggage or corpse was found in the Dijon-Paris express, nor along the railway. No one saw Le Prince at the Dijon station, except his brother. No one saw Le Prince in the Dijon–Paris express after he was seen boarding it. No one noticed any strange behaviour or aggression in the Dijon-Paris express. The French police, Scotland Yard and the family undertook exhaustive searches but never found his body or luggage. This mysterious disappearance case remained unsolved.

Several theories explaining Le Prince's disappearance have been proposed including claims he was murdered so he could not claim patents on his groundbreaking 16 lens camera, a close relative was involved in his disappearance to gain a large inheritance and his family ordered him to disappear due to financial irregularities.

In December 1930 a bronze memorial tablet was erected at 160 Woodhouse Lane where his workshop had stood and an English Heritage blue plaque can be found on the bridge honouring the historic moment. Since 1930, he has been heralded as the "Father of Cinematography".


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