|Née Henderina (Rina) Victoria Scott Klaassen.
b. 1862, Brixton, Surrey, UK
d. 18 January 1929, Oakley, Hampshire, UK
Married Dukinfield Henry Scott
|Henderina Scott was one of the first people to use the cinematograph to demonstrate plant and flower movements.
Henderina or Rina Scott (Mrs D. H. Scott) was a pioneer in the field of scientific films in the early 1900s – photographing and exhibiting moving pictures of plant and flower growth. She deserves recognition for her creative photographic techniques and for her success in applying these techniques to advance her research. Scott was eager to share her research methods with her peers and frequently exhibited her experimental films in scientific circles. In addition to her passion for botany she also had a keen interest in the education system.
Henderina Victoria Klaassen was born 18 July 1862 in Brixton. In 1886 she was studying at the Royal College of Science where she was lectured in advanced botany by the noted palaeobotanist Dukinfield Henry Scott. A successful personal and professional partnership ensued and they were married the following year. Scott regularly provided illustrations for her husband’s textbooks and also conducted her own botanical studies.
It was in 1902, whilst studying the plant Sparmannia africana, that Scott began experimenting with cinematography. Inspired by the endeavours of others in this area, Scott had a Kammatograph (a combined camera and projector) customised to suit her needs. The machine used a glass plate rather than celluloid film to record images, so it was better suited to Scott’s greenhouse ‘studio’. She commenced the laborious process of visually capturing plant growth using time-lapse photography and spent at least a year experimenting before publishing her results in Annals of Botany in September 1903, claiming to have conducted the “first kinematograph experiments under natural conditions, daylight being used and artificial light only resorted to at night”. A process that took weeks and was imperceptible to the eye, such as a seed germinating, could be viewed in merely seconds when photographed at fifteen minute intervals and projected on screen. Instantaneous photography was also used when attempting to capture rapid movements, such as a bee fertilising a flower. Over the course of several years Scott produced around a dozen films, of up to thirty seconds in length each. She published several botanical papers and demonstrated her films at a number of prestigious societies including the British Association in 1904, the Linnean Society in 1905 and 1907 and the Royal Horticultural Society in 1906. Scott was one of the first women to be admitted as a fellow to the Linnean Society, in February 1905.
Scott forged close links with the Parents’ National Education Union which was founded in 1887 by the educator Charlotte Mason. The Union’s Richmond and Kew branch was inaugurated at Scott’s home in Richmond in 1896, with Scott acting as Honourable Secretary. Scott also contributed to The Parents’ Review (the Union’s official monthly journal) which promoted home-training and advocated Mason’s guiding principle that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”. Scott’s success with the Kammatograph was also documented in a 1904 Eton College nature study textbook aimed at encouraging children to love nature and outdoor life.
In 1906 the Scotts moved from Richmond to the small village of Oakley in Hampshire. Scott subsequently took an active role in local affairs, serving on numerous councils and committees. Her involvement in education also extended to her serving as manager and treasurer of the Oakley village school.
Scott died unexpectedly on 18 January 1929 after a short illness. Her pioneering work with time-lapse photography over twenty years earlier had enabled her contemporaries to see the imperceptible. Her Kammatograph plates manipulated and accelerated time, allowing her to demonstrate the slow but vital process of plant growth. It is particularly unfortunate that none of Scott’s films are known to have survived; it would certainly be a fitting tribute if the fruits of her labour could be brought to life on the screen once more.
An illustrated version of this piece appears in Viewfinder, No 78, March 2010, p. 31.
A. B. R., ‘Mrs. Henderina Victoria Scott’, Journal of Botany, 1929, p. 57.
British Association for the Advancement of Science, Report of the Seventy-Fourth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science Held at Cambridge in August 1904 (London: John Murray, 1905).
Holmesdale Natural History Club, Proceedings of the Holmesdale Natural History Club for the Years 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905 (Reigate: Reigate Press, 1906).
Linnean Society of London, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 117, 1904-1905, pp. 10-11.
—. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 119, 1906-1907, p. 63.
‘Mrs. D. H. Scott’, Nature: A Weekly Journal of Science 123, 1929, p. 287.
Oliver, F. W. ‘Mrs. Henderina (Rina) Victoria Scott’, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 141, 1928-1929, pp. 146-147.
Scott, Mrs. Dukinfield H. ‘Animated Photographs of Plants’, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 32 , 1907, pp. 48-51.
—. ‘Animated Photographs of Plants’, Knowledge & Scientific News, May 1904, pp. 83-86.
Scott, Rina, ‘On the Movements of the Flowers of Sparmannia Africana, and their Demonstration by means of the Kinematograph’, Annals of Botany, Vol. XVII, No. LXVIII, September 1903, pp. 761-777.
Scott, Victoria Henderina (Mrs. D. H. Scott), née Klaassen, The Botanical Society and Exchange Club of the British Isles Report for 1929, 9.1, 1930, p. 98.
Estate of Dukinfield H. Scott, title deeds and papers [2202/3/1-38], Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6ND, UK.
Note on Credits: In compiling this filmography, I have referred to the following sources: Scott, “Sparmannia africana” 761-777; Scott, Knowledge & Scientific News 83-86; Scott, Journal of the RHS 48-51; Linnean Society, 1904-1905 Proceedings 10-11. Unless Scott has explicitly stated the year of film production, I have made an approximation based on the plant descriptions and exhibition dates referred to in the source material above (AB).
Amy Bethel (SB)