Léon Bouly

Thomas Guillaume Bouly ( 1872 – 1932 ) is a French inventor and creator of the term cinematograph .

Very little is known about him, except that after having built chronophotography devices , he filed on February 12, 1892 the patent of a ”  reversible camera of photography and optics for the analysis and the synthesis of movements, says the “Cynématographe Léon Bouly”. 

On December 27, 1893 , he made a correction to the name of his camera, which became Cinématographe . According to the description of this camera, it is theoretically capable of shooting and also the projection of moving photographs. It uses an Eastman film coated on one side with a photosensitive emulsion without perforations and it includes all the principles necessary for moving pictures  : intermittent film feed system synchronized with the shutter. However, in his Histoire du cinéma for dummies (first edition, 2008), Vincent Mirabel incorrectly states that the Bouly apparatus”Was never built” while two copies are kept at the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Paris 1 , but their operation has never been proven, no newspaper article of the time does indeed attest to the existence in any projection made by their inventor, that science journalists would not have failed to mention 2 . In 1894 , Bouly did not pay the royalties of his patents, the name cinematograph becomes available and the Lumière brothers file their own patent under this name on February 13, 1895 .

Ignored in the General History of the cinema of Georges Sadoul (1950) or in the history of cinema of Jean Mitry (1965), the name of Léon Bouly is now quoted in more recent works that recognize today with his patent (No. 219,350) he was, before the Lumière brothers, the one who imagined using a mixture of ancient Greek and Latin to designate his mechanism, and we know how successful this word was (from Greek κίνημα / kínēma , “movement” and γραφή / graphê , “art of writing, writing”). Note that as early as 1891 Thomas Edisonnamed Kinetographethe animated photographic camera he had designed and which his assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson , had developed, and which was at the origin of the first films of the cinema, as early as 1891 . This term kinetograph (after the ancient Greek kinetos and graphein meaning respectively “movement” and “write”) served as a basis for appellation of cinema in several languages ​​other than Latin. Kino , both in German and Russian, and in many other languages 3 , refers to cinema 4 .


  • Léo Sauvage, The Lumière Affair , Éditions Lherminier, 1985
  • Jacques Legrand, Pierre Lherminier and Laurent Mannoni, Chronicles of cinema , ed. Chronicle, 1992
  • Emmanuelle Toulet, Cinematograph: Invention of the Century , Gallimard, coll. ”  Discoveries Gallimard / Arts” ( o  35 ) 1988
  • Michel Marié, Thierry Lefebvre, Cinema of the early times: new French contributions , Presses de la Sorbonne nouvelle, 1996
  • Pierre-Jean Benghozi, Christian Delage, An Economic History of French Cinema: 1895-1995 – Franco-American Perspectives , L’Harmattan Edition, 1995
  • Danièle and Jean-Claude Clermontel, Scientific, Technological and Economic Chronology of France , Publibook, 2009

Notes and references

  1. ↑ inventory n ° 16684-0000-  [ archive ] and 16685-0000-  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588  p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  33
  3. ↑ Laurent Mannoni (celebration of 22 March 1895 French year of the invention of cinema), Lexicon (special issue), Paris, SARL Libération , al.  “Supplement” ( o  4306)p.  3
  4. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  16

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