H I S T O R I C A L F A C T S ON THE INVENTION OF AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY BY KITE
A number of people have written - on the internet and elsewhere - about the origin of the invention of aerial kite photography, often using information copied from various sources but not necessarily always checked for accuracy. In this way, the invention has often been credited to E. Douglas Archibald rather than to Arthur Batut. Some odd dates have also been quoted for the first KAP photographs, such as 1882 or 1883.
But how much of this is accurate? By examining the following documents, numbered from  to , I have I think been able to come to a definitive conclusion.
Edmund Douglas ARCHIBALD
Edmund Douglas ARCHIBALD (1851-1910) was a meteorologist.
He worked on various different applications of kites and in 1882 started making observations of wind speed at different altitudes using anemometers attached to a kite line. In 1885 he took out a patent on a kite-balloon and on June 25th 1887, wrote a paper published in Nature vol.36. Besides meteorology, he was also highly interested in the military applications of kites.
In a leaflet written in French on military kites titled Les Cerfs-Volants militaires which he published at the end of 1888 he claimed to have taken aerial photographs in July of the same year.  In The Story of Earth's Atmosphere published in 1897, he claimed to have taken aerial photographs in 1887 . However, he published no photographs and gave no specific details of dates, places, trials or results.
But what in fact has he really done?
Arthur BATUT (1846-1918) was a landowner in Tarn (South of France), humanist, a lover of arts, literature and science, devoting himself to photography.
He performed his first aerial pictures in May 1888 and subsequently sent a letter and two photographs to Gaston Tissandier to demonstrate his technique. Using this information Tissandier wrote an article  published in the review LA NATURE on August 25th 1888.
On February July 13th 1889 Arthur Batut shot an overhead picture of his property at 127 m elevation. This
photograph was later published in LA NATURE on March 23rd 1889 with all the details of the kite, the camera and the technique employed.
He also wrote a book La photographie aérienne par cerf-volant in which he described his trials, his methods and his equipment. This book of 74 pages was published early in 1890 with a photograph of the town of Labruguiere taken on March 29th 1889. It was followed by a paper in LA NATURE on March 15th 1890.
As a result of this, a number of people got in touch with him – particularly one Emile Wenz and various
improvements to his technique resulted. Further articles then appeared in LA NATURE, Sept 26th 1891 and later on January 2nd 1897 from his hand. He was always ready to share his invention with everyone, without profiting from it himself. He thus achieved the gratitude and respect from all those who were interested in Aerial Photography. Today the Arthur Batut Museum in Labruguière holds 85 prints of his aerial pictures and much of his original
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTS
From E. Douglas ARCHIBALD we have, all in all, only his claims of success in aerial photography which consist in total of just 2 sentences of about 30 words in his leaflet of 1888  and one sentence of about 30 words in his book on meteorology of 1897 . He never showed any photographs. He never published any other details.
No facts and no witnesses exist to support his claims. In addition to this, when his different claims are examined in detail, various anomalies come to light. At the end of 1888  he wrote "I think one could easily replace the observer by a photographic camera...” Hardly the words of someone who had already tried and tested the idea. It is also obvious that, having been made aware of Batut's work, he added three paragraphs to an article he had previously written in order to substantiate his claim for having originated the idea of kite photography.
In the first paragraph he claims to have succeeded in July 1888 and then carries on to say "I am working to perfect the system for military use". The second paragraph is a re-wording of the article of G. Tissandier and is obviously written in order to diminish the work of Arthur Batut. The third paragraph written in the form of advice gives the impression that Archibald was in fact more experienced than Batut.
There is a notice in the STAR newspaper, published in New Zealand on September 20th 1888  written by "a correspondent who called upon Mr Douglas Archibald". In the last paragraph, speaking of Archibald: "And he has engaged to raise a camera with either a system of kites or with a kite- balloon at the approaching Unionist demonstration at Eridge Park, by which means he hopes to procure a photograph both as interesting from a political as from a scientific point of view."
Now considering that Archibald was in Europe, the only way to exchange was postal letters by ship. The travel time was 4 months, so it can be guessed that it could have been sent no later than the end of May. The aerial demonstration could have been in July and be the one mentioned in .
Another paper  published July 28th, 1888 in LE TEMPS describes Archibald's work. The similarity with the documents  and  is obvious; all are from Archibald's own hand. There is no mention of successful aerial photography. It merely mentions the possibility: " M. Archibald thinks that one could easily replace the observer ... ". It certainly sounds as though it had not been achieved at the time of writing.
This suggests unequivocally that in July 1888 E. D. Archibald had not yet succeeded in making aerial pictures either by kite or by kite-balloon. In the 1897 book , the date of his first kite photography is now moved from July 1888 to the year 1887! Apart from noticing that the camera is suspended on the line and the shutter releases by ‘explosion’, there is whatsoever no other technical data neither dates nor places. In 1897 suspending a camera on the line was not new either. When Archibald is writting "Since that time kite photography has leapt into popularity" it is clear nowadays that all was achieved without his contribution because he haven't published photographs or technical datas. And finally, to illustrate his writing he used a photograph taken by Baden F.S. Baden-Powell. Why not one of his own photographs? Good question! In the Monthly Weather Review of October 1898 , a paper titled "a record of some kite experiments" written by William A. EDDY provides interesting reading. He writes first of all an account of experiments carried out by Archibald published in 1886 in Nature. This tallies with article on kite-balloons and other accounts He goes on to quote from the Pall Mall Gazette he received from London in 1896 or 1897 where "Archibald is recorded as having taken a kite-photograph in 1886". A few lines further he points to: "In the London article mentioning Archibald's kite-photograph, M. Batut of France, is credited with a kite-photograph in the same year". What Eddy apparently ignored is that Batut's photographs are from 1888 and not 1886. It can only be a misprint. In between these two sentences Eddy mentions being "without knowledge of Archibald's method of suspending his camera" and having seen one of Archibald's kite-photographs dated 1888 at Blue Hill Observatory on July 30, 1894. He is merely noting that the picture was taken with the camera pointing straight down. Finally, we have some concrete evidence of Archibald's kite-photography. From A. BATUT there remain 85 photographs, the frame of his kite, his equipment, his book, his notes, his correspondence, those of his friends and acquaintances, the press papers, all the details of his equipment and of his technique, the evidence of those who knew him and who have placed him on the first rank of this invention in their books. To quote for example Lecornu in his book of 1902: "The first application of kite to aerial photography (...) is due indisputably to a Frenchman, M. Arthur Batut (...) who conceived first and executed a particular layout of a kite making make this experiment possible(...) M. A. Batut pursued his research until the completion of his programme, M. A. Batut is thus the genuine creator of kite aerial photography" Obviously nobody had any doubts about Arthur Batut being the first. There is no need to dwell further on his contribution, his unselfishness, his desire to share his knowledge. The visible proof that he has left behind is accessible to all at the Arthur Batut Museum in Labruguière.
The current confusion stems from Clive Hart's book titled ‘Kites - an historical survey’. On page 171 §3 he writes: "The first photograph to be taken from a kite seems to have been the work of E. D. Archibald, whose
meteorological studies are discussed above. In 1887 he took a number of photographs, using a small explosion to release the shutter. Many other methods of shutter release were developed later by such people as William Eddy, and the two Frenchmen, Emile Wenz and Arthur Batut." And on page 190 in a chronological summary : "1887 First kite photographs (Archibald)." Geoffroy de Beauffort of KAPWA has been able to get to the bottom of this confusion and to explain what happened: Clive Hart read in Archibald's book of 1897 the sentences that we mentioned above . Whilst not doubting the truthfulness of Archibald's claims, he covered himself by using the word "...seems...". In his book of 210 pages less than half a page is devoted to aerial photography and it is certainly the source of this confusion. But Clive Hart is not the only one to have been taken in, as on page 404 of the American Weather Bureau Report of September 1905 there is a short article entitled ‘E. D. Archibald and the modern kite’: "In 1887 Mr. Archibald took a photograph from a kite which is also one of the first if not the very first occasion on which that was done". This is of course a repetition of Archibald's declaration  in his book of 1897.
One could say that Archibald did have the original idea. He certainly was not the only one, and in this case he
would have been superseded at least by Mr Jobert who, in July 1880 outlined a project of aerial photography using a trolley running up the line of the kite. But a project is not an execution.
Let’s see again the timeline of the publications
- 1888, July 28 Le Temps, paper on E.D. Archibald without proof of aerial photography 
- 1888, August 25 La Nature, article on Arthur Batut and his aerial photographs 
- 1888, September 20 Star (NZ), description of Archibald's projects carried out 4 months earlier
- 1888, end Les Cerfs-Volants Militaires by E.D.Archibald 
- 1889, March 23 La Nature, aerial photograph of Enlaure, A.Batut's property
- 1890 La photographie aérienne par cerf-volant by A.Batut
- 1897 The story of Earth's Atmosphere by E.D.Archibald 
It is curious that Archibald only published two brief articles about his aero-photographic experience. Why did he not show any of his results? Surely it is what any other person would have done to strengthen their claim of being the first. Why didn't he apply for a patent as quickly as he had done in 1895 for the balloon-kite?
Any evidence that could be found of the Unionist demonstration at Eridge Park, Tunbridge Wells could perhaps clear up some of these questions. It is also worth mentioning the bibliographical list made by Emile Wenz and published in L'Aeronaute in November 1901. This shows that Wenz found no evidence of Archibald's photographs. Their contemporaries all unanimously recognized Batut as the inventor of kite aerial photography. This appears to have been universally accepted until the publication of Clive Hart's book in 1967 which sowed the seeds of some totally unsubstantiated doubt. This false information has unfortunately survived despite the investigation of KAPWA published in 1986.
Some authors have mentioned the years 1882 and 1883 as the beginning of kite aerial photography by Archibald and this is obviously totally wrong and without any foundation as indeed Archibald later made clear. These claims also fail to take into account the state of the art of photography and kiting at that time.
Papers about E. D. Archibald which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette, a London publication in 1888, were mentioned by Emile Wenz and were probably seen also by Eddy. Unfortunately these are not available at the present time and therefore have not been used in this investigation. They will perhaps make interesting reading in the future?
Three sentences would not be enough to justify a patent, and for any invention proof is of course required. It is quite obviously impossible to qualify Archibald's claims for having invented kite aerial photography.
The lack of tangible evidence is not enough to classify Archibald’s claims as historical facts.
The documents of 1888 show that there is no certitude and the allegation of 1897 is simply not plausible. His attempt to rewrite history is obvious and discredits the whole affair. It is a great pity that E. D. Archibald who was undoubtedly a distinguished meteorologist seems to have lost his way on this matter. He remains of course the first kite-photographer in the UK.From his photographs, by the development and the fine-tuning of his technique, his accessories, his camera, by the number of shots he made, by the popularization and the share of his invention, it is a fact that Arthur BATUT is the first in the world to have produce kite aerial photographs. He was a true pioneer and the only inventor of kite aerial photography. His spirit of unselfishness, of sharing and exchange have remained. Nobody should take from him what is owed and which he deserves so well.
Written by C.Becot