Croydon Camera Club
Croydon Camera Club

Charles Edward Kenneth Mees

The Biography of Dr MeesBy Walter Clark FPSA, 1943
Dr Mees Biography Part 2

By this time, Mees had fulfilled one of his ambitions to develop the basis of the science of photography. But he had another profound thought to aid in the application of science to industry. It should be realized that, at that time, industry was run largely by people who had little sympathy for the scientific point of view, but Dr. Mees was an enthusiast for the application of science. His first inquiry for a job was turned down, so he went to a friend who had a small business which had been founded at the beginning of the making of dry plates. The friend was S. H. Wratten, who ran the business for his father, its owner, who had retired. The result was not the offer of a job but an invitation to be a partner in the firm. So Dr. Mees collected what funds he could and became a partner and joint managing director of the firm of Wratten and Wainwright Limited, with the understanding that he was to do research, an idea with which the progressively minded Mr. Wratten was in full accord.

Dr. Mees spent six years with Wratten and Wainwright. In this period he made the famous panchromatic plates, filters, and safelights, worked on plates for photo-engravers and spectroscopists, and carried out many researches of great importance, of which perhaps the chief was on the resolving power of photographic materials. All of these were of great practical importance, but there had been little time for work on the basic theory of photography.

In 1912, George Eastman asked Dr. Mees if he would come to Rochester, N. Y., and organize and direct a research laboratory for the Eastman Kodak Company. This offered the opportunity of realizing his two dreams: it meant that he would be able to experiment on industrial research on a much larger scale and see if it would be of benefit to a large company, and it also meant that he would be able to have a large staff to work on the science of photography. Mr. Eastman clearly realized the value to the photographic industry of research on its fundamental problems. And so Dr. Mees came to Rochester, and founded the Kodak Research Laboratories, which today has its place as one of the great industrial research organizations of the world.

Under Dr. Mees direction, the Research Laboratory started its program of work on the basic theory of photography. It also started research on the problem of color photography, a subject in which Dr. Mees had been very interested while he was at Wratten and Wainwright. In 1914, war broke out in Europe, and in 1917-1918, the United States participated. Under Dr. Mees' direction, all efforts of the Laboratory were concentrated on problems of military importance. They included the founding at Kodak Park of the first school for instruction in aerial photography.

At the close of the war, in addition to continuing as Director of Research, Dr. Mees organized a department for the development of photographic apparatus, known as the " Development Department," and the Director of Research became the Director of Research and Development.

The shutting off of European trade during the war resulted in a serious shortage of organic chemicals for research work, which were made mostly in Germany. The American Chemical Society made a general appeal to the chemical industry to supply the badly needed chemicals, and the Eastman Kodak Company, through the efforts of Dr. Mees, added the Department of Synthetic Organic Chemistry to the Research Laboratory. This department, at first run at a financial loss, is now self-supporting and lists over 3,000 chemicals in its catalogue. It is not only of immense value to the Eastman Kodak Company as a source of new chemicals, but its value to the university and industrial research laboratories of the country is well known.

The study of the fundamental properties of photographic materials was steadily carried on. Sheppard came to the laboratory to take charge of the chemical aspects of the work and become the Assistant Director of Research, while the physical problems, especially the study of tone reproduction, were the responsibility of L. A. Jones. In recent years the study of the basic problems has aided materially in the production of new and improved types of photographic plates, films, and papers, and the multitude of accessories used in photography.