10 Images That Changed the World

Man’s harboring of fire, the first printed book, a route to the New World, and invention of thousands of devices have shaped the world in ways unimaginable. And it was only able to be captured accurately less than 200 years ago. Artists, writers, and historians can try to be as truthful as possible, but only a camera is capable of 100% pure objectivity.

To help see the world as it was back then and even get amazing looks at it now, we have gathered ten images that changed the world. Including many well-known photographs, there are also many lesser known, the stories behind them, and one that even changes the way we will see the universe from now on.

  1. The First Photograph
    In 1824, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first official photograph: a view from his window in Le Gras, a country house in France. Fascinated with the art of lithography, Joseph was never able to draw well and began studying how images could be copied. Using many instruments including the camera obscura, a pewter plate, lens, and more, the photograph took about eight hours to take. After the photography craze of the 1830’s, the First Photograph slipped into obscurity, until it was discovered by Helmut Gernsheim. He followed the clues as to its origins, purchased it, and it now hangs in the University of Texas at Austin.
  2. First President to be Photographed
    Taking office in 1825, John Quincy Adams was the first American president ever photographed. The son of second president John Adams. John Quincy Adams saw first-hand the beginnings of the American Revolution and lived to see his country expand from 13 colonies to a world superpower. After his presidency, he became well known as one of the leading advocates for the emerging abolitionist movement. His picture still hangs at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute.
  3. Lincoln at Gettysburg
    Although the words “four score and seven years ago” were only heard the one time, the impact of the man who spoke them, along with his accomplishments changed the world. This small photo was taken at the Dedication Ceremony in November of 1863. Lincoln himself is pictured in the center without his trademark stovepipe hat. Other members of his cabinet are also pictured.
  4. Washington Crossing the Delaware
    Don’t let the size of the historic image fool you, as the original painting is over twelve feet high and 21 feet long. Painted by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851, it memorizes the crossing of the Delaware River by American revolutionaries to surprise English and Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton after Christmas in 1776. It now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and is a great opportunity for students of history to learn the identities and stories of each man on the boat.
  5. Avisa Relation Oder Zeitung
    This was one of the first periodicals published in the world. Better known as a newspaper, it was first published in Germany in 1609 by Lucas Schulte. Another German newspaper, the “Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien,” was also published at about that time and is also rumored to be the first newspaper. For being a pioneer in what is still to this day an ever changing industry, the image and movement are historic.
  6. Two Nudes Standing
    As sure as photography was invented: nude photography came shortly after. Although there may have been more before it, this is the first known picture of a nude person, or in this case, two naked women. It was taken by Félix-Jacques-Antoine Moulin in France and thought to be dated at about 1850. In fact, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which houses it, Moulin was sentenced to a one month prison sentence for producing obscene images not unlike this one.
  7. Mexican Family
    Although the Mexican-American War of the mid 1800’s is not a well-known war, the photographs just might be the first war photographs ever. The war lasted from 1846 to 1848 and regarded the annexation of Texas, which was eventually won by the United States and purchased from Mexico. At the time, an unknown photographer traveling with the American army took several images of the visit, including this one of an anonymous Mexican family. These and other similar photos still can be seen at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX.
  8. The Gentleman’s Magazine
    Published in 1731, this British publication is considered the first magazine ever. Founded in London by Edward Cave, he began it after being fired from a job with a printer. Shortly after, others would hop on the bandwagon to publish magazines but this will always remain the first. There is even an archive at this site which carries 20 volumes of “The Gentleman’s Magazine” all the way to 1750.
  9. View of Earth From a Camera on V-2#13
    Did you know space photography came before color photography? In 1946, a camera attached to a rocket penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere and took this picture. At an altitude of 65 miles and with a 35mm motion picture camera, the image was made possible from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico by a group of soldiers and scientists and led to many more after that. Which leads us to…
  10. The First Image of the Universe
    What Einstein and Newton dreamed of is now a reality as of July 5, 2010. The first image of the entire universe as taken from Europe’s Planck telescope is seen here. With untold galaxies and star clusters swirling, it will take scientists years to map it all. What is known is that the equator-like line running through the middle is where our own sun and Earth are.

With the emergence of digital photography, online publishing, and a round the clock audience, these ten images that changed the world are only the beginning. And the best part is, you don’t need a multi-million dollar telescope to take it. Anyone with a camera, at the right place, and in the right time can take the next image that can change the world.