Friday, February 24, 2006

Dr. Harold Edgerton

Chances are that most of us have seen a photograph made by Dr. Harold Edgerton, but chances are also good that most of us did not know--or remember--who made the photo.

Edgerton, born in 1903, was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1931 when he developed a flash, or stroboscope, for use in high-speed, stop-action photography. Utilizing an open shutter, moving film, and a flash that strobed many times per second, be captured images of an unseen world.

His popular images showed a coronet created by the splash of a milkdrop, a football compressed by a kicking shoe, and a bullet firing through an apple. Edgerton also invented flash equipment for underwater use by Jacques Cousteau. He died 1990.

One disturbingly beautiful set of images Edgerton made was a series showing a nuclear test blast in the instants after detonation. Using a camera positioned seven miles away, the shutter speed was 100 microseconds. It is oddly ironic that this image of death also suggests the look of a single-celled organism seen under a microscope.

Photos by Edgerton:


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