Kontrast A A + A ++

Kazimierz Prószyński was a pioneer of cinematography whose first invention preceded the work of the so-called “fathers of cinema”, the Lumière brothers. Prószyński built a system which allowed film stock to move in even steps, thus minimizing vibrations and eliminating image flicker. He also invented the first manual automatic film camera with image stabilization, which revolutionized the nascent film industry. Unfortunately, his innovations did not bring him fame and fortune, and he remained a forgotten genius for many years.


Prószyński came from a family with strong nationalist and social traditions. Casimir’s father Konrad was exiled to Siberia by the Russian authorities for his patriotic activities. After returning from exile, he established a family in Warsaw and continued to promote Polish education and culture. His son Kazimierz was born in 1875.


Kazimierz showed interest in the sciences from an early age. After graduating from high school, he left Poland to study at the Technical Faculty of the University of Liège. Here, in 1894, he constructed his first apparatus for recording and reproducing films: the pleograph, an apparatus that combined the function of a camera and a projector. His patent was registered a year earlier than the Lumière brothers’ invention.


After graduating, he returned to Warsaw, where he invented another camera, the universal expeditor. After founding the second film studio in the history of Polish cinematography, he made films of everyday life in Warsaw, including the 1902 short films „The Return of the Birbant” and „The Adventure of the Carriage Driver”.


In 1907 he began work on another invention: the aeroscope, the world’s first hand-held automatic film camera. He moved to Paris, where the effects of the industrial revolution had also spread to cinematography. Here he obtained a patent and began exploring the widespread use of his new aeroscope. In 1911 he moved to Great Britain, where he started mass production of his product. On June 22, 1911 he shot the first Polish film reportage of the coronation of English King George V with an aeroscope. In 1913 thanks to his invention of the cinephone, which made it possible to synchronize sound with image, he made the first films with sound.


After the outbreak of World War I, Prószyński and his wife Dorothy Abrey left for the United States of America in 1915; unfortunately the  crisis of the war years thwarted all his ambitious plans.


In November 1919 the Prószyńskis returned to Poland with their children Kazimierz and Irena. He continued his work in his homeland, now reborn after 123 years of partitions, until the outbreak of the Second World War. Prószyński and his wife and daughter were arrested by the Germans on August 25, 1944 during the Warsaw Uprising. He was  taken to the Gross-Rosen camp and from there to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where he became Nazi prisoner number 129957. He died on March 13, 1945, a few days before the Americans liberated the camp.


Kazimierz Prószyński’s life story sharpens the focus on the difficulties that faced Polish inventors at the time. The consequences of Poland’s difficult history and turbulent present created a difficult context for Polish innovators. Like Abraham Stern, Prószyński had to face a lack of understanding of his work and was hindered by limited opportunities for funding and commercial exploitation of his inventions. Both innovators were ahead of their times; that’s why we return to them and remind ourselves of their enormous contribution to the development of Polish science and technology.