Julius Neubronner

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Julius Gustav Neubronner (8 February 1852, Kronberg im Taunus, Duchy of Nassau – 17 April 1932) was a German pharmacist, inventor, company founder, and a pioneer of amateur photography and film. He is known for designing a camera to be attached to a carrier pigeon, taking aerial photographs by a delayed-action mechanism.[1] Neubronner's father was also an apothecary, and gave pigeons to local doctors to bring him prescriptions.

Neubronner's application for a patent for his camera design was rejected on the grounds that the patent office would not believe a pigeon could carry the weight of the camera,[2] but he provided proof photographs, and his patent was granted.[3] The patent describes his original design. It refers to either a 'simple' camera (with one lens, looking straight down) or preferably a 'double' one, with two lenses looking one ahead and one behind the pigeon. In either case, this original camera makes a single exposure after a delay time regulated by the deflation of an inflated air-bulb. The camera has a cloth rouleau shutter with a slit, which is passed across the film by a spring motor after the delay time expires. There is a scale relating the degree of inflation of the bulb to the delay time. Neubronner continued to improve and vary the specification. Later cameras have a swinging lens, giving a panoramic picture,[4] or more than one exposure.

Neubronner made an extra business, selling both cameras and sets of postcards of the aerial photographs he had made. As the First World War approached, he interested the Army in testing the possibility of his pigeon cameras for reconnaissance, but they were not used in the War.[1]

Neubronner also held a patent for paper or cloth tapes for binding the edges of glass plates; the strips, impregnated with gutta-percha (natural latex) and dried, could be stored without sticking to each other or their packaging, but would rewet easily for use. The Neubronner company still makes adhesive paper products.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Julius Neubronner and his Flying Photographers by the Deutsches Technikmuseum, at Google Arts & Culture; many excellent pictures.
  2. Dr Julius Neubronner's Miniature Pigeon Camera at Public Domain Review
  3. German Patent 204721 of 1907, Verfahren und Vorrichtung zum Photographieren von Geländeabschnitten aus der Vogelperspektive (Method and device for photographing sections of terrain from a bird's eye view), and equivalent British Patent 13128 of 1908, Method of and means for taking photographs of landscapes from above, granted to Dr Julius Neubronner, at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
  4. Replica of a Neubronner pigeon camera giving a panoramic picture 3x8cm with a swinging lens, sold at the Rahn auction Photographica 28, on 1 June 2014.
  5. 'About us' at Neubronner GmbH