Stereoscopic cards for use in a stereoscope, c 1850-1950.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Charles Wheatstone demonstrated his stereoscope to the Royal Society in 1838 in order to create an apparently three-dimensional image to demonstrate binocular vision. Although Wheatstone's invention was intended to be an experimental demonstration apparatus, stereoscopes became popular scientific toys. In the early 1840s, after the invention of photography, some of the foremost early photographers such as W H Fox Talbot and Roger Fenton began producing calotypes specifically for use in stereoscopes. The popularity of stereoscopic viewers was such that between 1860 and 1920 they were almost as common a feature in American and European households as the television set is today.