Few people have probably heard the name of John Benjamin Dancer, an inventor and maker of scientific instruments yet the man who came and worked in Manchester, setting up shop in Cross Street deserves his story being told.

Dancer, though not the first professional photographer in the country, was almost certainly the first in Manchester, he was also the originator of microphotography, the porous jars used for early batteries, photographic lantern slides, introducing the photo slide for the first time, and the limelights for magic lanterns.

Born in London, he lived and worked in Manchester for 46 years, opening his shop on Cross Street in 1841.

He was a pioneer in the photography process of Daguerreotype,was the first publicly available photographic process, widely used during the 1840s and 1850s.

Photography was not his only forte though.He made nearly all the instruments that his friend Dr Joule, living in Salford used for his experimentation on the mechanics of heat including what was at the time, the moost accurate British made thermometer.

It was though microphotography that he is probably remembered for today.Amongst his slides was a reduction of the ten commandments and reducing the front page of the Times to one sixteenth of an inch.

The largest number of portraits that he managed to get onto one slide was 155.Queen Victoria was a signet composed of five portraits of her family created by Dancer.

He was not born a Mancunian, but in London in 1812 but the family moved to Liverpool in 1818 where his father Josiah was an optician and philosophical instrument maker.

He continued the business after his father died in 1835 before moving to Manchester giving the City its first sighting of a photographic camera.

For a man who spent his days and nights perched over a microscope, it was perhaps little wonder that his eyesight began to fail him,and he was forced to leave his business and shop which was taken over by two of his daughters.He would dictate his autobiography.

He died November 24th 1887 aged 75 and is buried at Brooklands Cemetery, Sale.



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