Richard Hill Norris

Prof Richard Hill Norris FRSE FRSGS (1830-1916) was a British physiologist, spiritualist and photographer.[1] From the 1880s he began microscopic photography of blood corpuscles and was a pioneer of microphotography. In 1856 he invented the dry collodion photographic plate.[2]


Norris studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He developed an early interest in microphotography, mainly taking pictures of frogs' blood. In 1856 he invented the first dry collodion photographic plate. In 1858 he founded the Patent Dry Collodion Plate Company in Birmingham one of the first commercial producers of photographic materials in the world.[2]

From 1862 to 1891 he was Professor of Physiology at Queens College in Birmingham.[2]

In 1878 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Thomas Richard Fraser, John Gray McKendrick, Alexander Dickson and Alexander Buchan.[3] He was President of the Birmingham Philosophical Society.

In April 1882 he complained to The Lancet that Giulio Bizzozero and plagiarised pieces of his work.

He was still patenting photographic processes in 1888. In December 1890 he went into partnership with Harold William Southall of Edgbaston and founded the Birmingham Dry Collodion Plate and Film Company. Together they built a very large factory in Yardley, Birmingham which began production in 1893. However, this company failed and was liquidated in 1895.

Norris was also involved in microscopic studies of metals heating and cooling together with George Gore at the Institute of Scientific Research in Birmingham.

His personal interests extended deeply into spiritualism and he considered himself an amateur medium and being involved in seances and automatic writing. He believed in allopsychism, mesmerism and hypnotism. He made studies of Christine Beauchamp. He did not publish any of his thoughts on spiritualism but corresponded with several parties such as: Alfred Russel Wallace, William Crookes, Emma Hardinge and Samuel Guppy.


In 1852 he was married to Ann (1827-1901). Their son Richard Hill Norris (1853-1919) was also a doctor.[4] Other sons included Arthur Kingsley Norris and Benjamin Stuart Norris. His brother was Joseph Norris, Victorian photographer.


  • On Stasis of Blood and Exudation (1862)
  • On the Laws and Principles Concerned in the Aggregation of Blood Corpuscles (1869)
  • On the Extrusion of the Morphological Elements of the Blood (1871)
  • On the Physical Principles Concerned in the Passage of Blood Corpuscles through the Walls of the Vessels (1871)
  • The Physiology and Pathology of the Blood (1882)


  1. Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service".
  2. "Catalogue" (PDF).
  3. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  4. "Dr. Richard Hill Norris". BMJ. 2 (3076): 801. 1919. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3076.801-b.

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