Since antiquity artists and inventors have sought to capture images of the visual world. Tools like the camera obscura could project dim images in a darkened room, and in portable versions on a screen of oiled paper, cloth, or frosted glass. It would take centuries to develop a chemical process that could produce a permanent record of the fleeting image. Louis Daguerre's invention was the culmination of his and others work in chemistry, optics, and other fields, as was the similar work of his English competitor Henry Fox Talbot. He applied it immediately to capturing ordinary objects and scenes, as well as making tentative scientific applications to microscopy and astronomy. After Daguerre presented his invention to the French Academy of Sciences, the French government in 1839 made the process free and accessible to the world - an act that facilitated the development of other forms of photography and many other applications. Many other, similar processes followed, with improvements in emulsions, backings, and especially chemical methods of fixing the images so that they did not fade. Scientific applications were rapid, first as permanent records of observation but soon complementing and even displacing hand illustration for communication and study by others, beyond the initial observer. The explosion of photography also stimulated many investigations into the artistic, personal, and perceptual aspects of images that at first seemed a simple copy of reality.