This is the first known color photograph of a neon tube, taken around 1913. The man is John Norman Collie, a distinguished scientist, writer, artist, photographer and mountaineer born in England in 1859. He served as a professor of chemistry at the University College of London (UCL) from 1913 to 1928. UCL was founded in 1826 as the first institution of higher education open to anyone, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic background.
He was the first to climb 71 peaks around the world, and has two mountains named after him, Sgurr Thormaid (Norman’s Peak) in Scotland, and Mount Collie in Canada. Collie was a pioneer in chemistry research. He also was instrumental in the development of the first X-ray in 1895. There is even some anecdotal evidence that Collie was Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes.
In this picture, he’s perched next to a glowing neon gas discharge tube.