Robertson, Gaspard Étienne

BORN 15 Jun 1763, Liège - DIED 2 Feb 1837, Paris: Batignolles
BIRTH NAME Robert, Gaspard Étienne
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 08, ligne 01, AB, 24)

Gaspard Étienne Robert, known as E.G. Robertson the master of the fantasmagoria, was born at Liège and studied at Leuven. He was soon appointed professor of physics and specialised in optics. In 1784 he demonstrated an improved magic lantern (a predecessor of the slide projector).

He was also an enthousiastic painter and he moved to Paris to become an artist. He took his 'fantomes artificiels’ with him. In Paris he attend lectures by Jacques Charles at the Collège de France. In 1793 he developed a magic lantern show and he gave public demonstrations in the field of galvanism and optics. In 1796 he discussed a method of burning English ships with the government of France, but the government didn't use his ideas.

He created a phantasmagoria show complete with actors and 'ghosts', using smoke, mirrors and other attributed. His audience thought that they had seen real ghosts and after an investigatoon he was forced to stop his show in Paris. He performed in Bordeaux (where he made a balloon flight), but soon he was back in Paris. In 1799 he patented his magic lantern on wheels as the Fantoscope. During the next years he performed at the Convent des Capucines and afterwards he travelled around the world with it.

In many countries he flew in balloons and some of them he called 'scientific' because of his meteorological research, but his results contradicted known laws of physics. In 1806 he flew from Copenhagen to Roskilde.

In 1826 he had the honour to open the third Jardin de Tivoli. He died in Paris in 1837.


The grave of Gaspard Étienne Robertson at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)


Wikipedia (EN):

Robinson, Henry Crabb

Published: 02 May 2009
Last update: 25 Apr 2022