Nicolas Camille Flammarion

French astronomer, writer

Having originally studied for the priesthood, Camille Flammarion became first an engraver then an astronomer and a populariser of the subject in a number of works for a general audience that gained him a wide fame. He founded the French Astronomical Society and edited its bulletin, founded the journal L'Astronomie in 1883, and held positions at the Paris Observatory (1858-62, 1867) and Juvisy, near Paris (from 1882), where he studied the moon, Mars and double stars. To illustrate his observations, in 1898 he turned to cinematography, making films of models that illustrated the apparent motions of the planets and how the earth would appear from the moon. More controversially, he was also interested in mysticism and psychical research. Flammarion was well-known for his fictional writings, and Terry Ramsaye quotes from a perceptive (but undated) St. Louis Post Dispatch review of the Kinetoscope, where the writer compares the Kinetoscope's ability to reverse time by reversing film to Flammarion's speculative work Lumen (1887). Here omniscient beings view the passing of time as a ray of light, and are able to move freely along that ray and hence to view events at all times and in any direction. Flammarion's most outstanding work, his science-fiction novel La Fin du Monde, was filmed by Abel Gance in 1930.

Luke McKernan