was born at Saco, Maine, U.S.A. on 28th May 1813, the son of William
Johnson. He was brought up in New Hampshire and for a time worked
as an assistant to a jeweller and watchmaker in New York. Johnson
formed a business partnership with Alexander Simon Wolcott (1804
a New York instrument maker. On 6th October 1839, John Johnson
a written description of Daguerre's method of photography to Wolcott,
immediately designed a camera for making daguerreotype portraits.
Johnson claimed that Wolcott made a tiny daguerreotype portrait of him
with the camera the same day. Alexander S. Wolcott invented a
which used a highly reflective concave mirror instead of a lens.
This cut exposure times to about 90 seconds in bright sunlight, thereby
making daguerreotype portraiture a possibility. In March 1840,
and Johnson opened a daguerreotype portrait gallery in New York,
the first commercial photographic portrait studio in the world.
perfected the technique of polishing the silvered copper plates used
daguerreotype portraits and later claimed to have discovered the use of
iodine chloride to sensitize plates and reduce camera exposure times.
Johnson's father Wiliam S. Johnson travelled to England with details of
Wolcott's mirror camera, intending to take out an English patent on
invention. Johnson had a meeting with Richard Beard, who was
to open a daguerreotype portrait gallery in London, and Beard agreed to
purchase the exclusive rights to Wolcott's camera. In the autumn
of 1840, John Johnson also travelled to England in order to provide
assistance to Beard, who was about to construct a photographic studio
the roof of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London's Regent Street.
the English scientist John Frederick Goddard (1795-1866) on chemical
for accelerating camera exposures to provide Beard with a practical
of making daguerreotype portraits. Beard opened England's first
portrait studio to the public on 23rd March 1841. Johnson
to provide technical assistance to Beard at the Regent Street
In 1841, Johnson filed a patent in the United States for his method of
polishing metal plates for photography. On 9th November 1842,
Johnson obtained from Richard Beard the patent rights for the
process in the counties of Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire and took
control of Beard's Photographic & Daguerreotype Portrait Gallery in
In July 1843,
opened a daguerreotype portrait studio next to the Athenaeum on
Street in Derby. While based in Derby, Johnson arranged for
to be made of the farm animals and agricultural implements on display
the Royal Agricultural Society's show being held in the town in July
A couple of month's later, Johnson opened a daguerreotype gallery in
Lancashire. In 1843,together with his former business partner
S. Wolcott, Johnson filed a British Patent on a camera and apparatus
for copying daguerreotypes. In 1844, Johnson sold the Manchester
studio to William Akers, passed the daguerreotype licence for
to Thomas Roberts, a local bookseller and
and returned to the United States.
On his return to
John Johnson continued his interest in photography and pursued his
interests. He was an early member of the American Photographical
and became the society's first Treasurer. In the early 1860s,
conducted chemical experiments and gave lectures on scientific topics
as the influence of light on the growth of plants. By 1866,
had returned to his native town of Saco in Maine where he became the
President of the York Institute, a society which aimed "to promote
study of Natural History and encourage Science and Art ." John
died in Saco on 3rd May 1871 at the age of 57.