Casimir Sivan

Swiss inventor

Casimir Sivan, whose career reflects several aspects of early cinema in Switzerland, has only recently emerged from obscurity. Though primarily a master clockmaker and inventor of watch movements, a collector of watches and automatons and a promoter of professional training for clockmakers, he was also interested in the reproduction of sound (Le Bijou phonograph). After training at the Ecole impériale d'horlogerie de Cluses (1867-1870), he settled in Geneva in 1888, taking Swiss nationality twelve years later. Between 1893 and 1898 he was involved in various ways with the new 'moving pictures'. From March 1895, he held the Swiss concession for the Edison Kinetoscope and Kinetophone. On 23 May 1896 he filed a patent, co-signed by E. Dalphin, for a 35 mm camera/projector. This camera may not have progressed beyond the prototype stage (Eastman House, Rochester holds two fragments of positive film, a camera and a Sivan-Dalphin projector). However in mid 1896 he allowed some films to be made (a smoker, a man drinking from a bottle, men bathing) at the same time that Lavanchy-Clarke was making, also in Geneva, Lumière's first Swiss films. One of Sivan's short films (showing the main facade of the Exposition Nationale Suisse, Geneva 1896) is preserved at the Cinémathèque Suisse. In the same years, Sivan collaborated with the inventor François Dussaud, developing a microphonograph and a method of synchronising image and sound (1897) which deserves further study, particularly as Dussaud became consulting engineer at Pathé Frères at the turn of the century.

Roland Cosandey