Étienne-Jules Marey was born in Beaune, France, on March 5, 1830, to a wine merchant and a teacher. To satisfy his father's wishes, he decided to study medicine, attending the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. Marey's fascination with both animals and mechanics inspired him to concentrate on physiology, and it was during his investigations of this field that he became involved in optics.
Ignazio Porro's primary contribution to optics was an innovative prism image erecting system that is commonly used in binoculars and stereomicroscopes, though he also invented and improved a number of other scientific instruments. Today Porro is often considered to have been ahead of his time in many ways. The Italian engineer received little acclaim or monetary compensation for his innovative devices, which only came to be fully appreciated and widely utilized after his death. In fact, when Ernst Abbe attempted to patent binoculars containing his own prism erecting system in 1893, the physicist was very surprised to find that someone else had invented and patented the design decades earlier. Despite his own intense work in the field of optics, Abbe had never heard of the inventor, a telling indication of Porro's difficulties.