Robert Cornelius. This photo was taken in 1839 making it one of the earliest known self-portraits in the history of photography. I have looked at it often. He feels so alive, so human. It is a far cry from the stilted portraits which were to follow in the decades to come.
I was reminded of this when I came across First Sounds, a website set up "to make mankind's earliest sound recordings available to all people for all time."
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville recorded phonautograms around 1860 and although the sound is distorted, it makes for facinating listening material. Scott's recordings predates Thomas Edison's far more famous recordings by some seventeen years, although there is arguably a significant difference in sound quality.
Last year the re-discovery of a young girl singing Au Clair de la Lune - a recording made by Scott in 1860 - made the headlines. Thanks to Mefi I just realised that experts are now thinking that Au Clair de la Lune was being played at twice the speed and the actual singer is Scott himself. While somewhat less romantic than a young girl's voice being heard after 150 years, it made me think of how inventors and pioneers are often left on their own as they try to make their ideas reality.