NADAR, FELIX ( 1820-1910), writer, caricaturist, photographer, and aeronautic pioneer; born Gaspard Félix Tournachon, 5 or 6 April 1820, at Paris. Nadar's father was a Lyons printer of royalist persuasion; his parents did not marry until after the birth of their second and last child, Adrien. From the first Nadar was radical and freethinking. In Lyons, to which his father returned in 1838 and where he died bankrupt, Nadar, who at Paris had attended the Collège de Versailles and the Collège Bourbon, studied medicine but soon turned to journalism. In the early 1840s, he returned to Paris where he wrote for various minor newspapers under the pseudonym, by which he now became known, of Nadar. He lived a bohemian life, scrounging for jobs, which included six months as secretary to Charles de Lesseps, Ferdinand's brother. The revolutionary years 1848-1849 were a time of adventure for the young Nadar, who was arrested in Prussia en route to Poland ( March 1848) and later spent six weeks as a particularly ineffectual French government "secret agent." He then visited London for the first time ( 1849), spent August 1850 in debtors' prison at Clichy, and returned to London in 1851 for the world's fair. It was there that he met the artist Constantin Guys, initiating a lifelong friendship. In the later 1840s, Nadar was a journalist (he founded La revue comique in 1849), a playwright (he produced Pierrot ministre at the Funambules in 1847 and Pierrot boursier at the Folies Nouvelles in 1854), an author ( La robe de Déjanire, 1845), and increasingly a self-taught caricaturist.
By 1854 Nadar had undertaken an ambitious project to produce four sheets illustrating some one thousand celebrities of his day in literature, drama, art, and music. The literature sheet of this "Panthéon" appeared with 270 portraits in March 1854. It made Nadar himself a celebrity, especially abroad, but failed financially, and the project was abandoned. Perhaps, however, it was while working on this enterprise that Nadar became interested in photography. The new invention was already well established at mid-century. By 1855 there were at least twenty-seven different (and difficult) photographic processes available and eight or nine photographic journals. Stereoscopy was an industry of some importance, and photography had been introduced to the general public at the Paris world's fair of 1855.