Thursday, January 15, 2009

Edwin Land

"Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible" - Edwin Land

Today we celebrate Edwin Land (1909-1991), inventor of Polaroid film. Second only to Thomas Edison in patents, Edwin Land's greatest achievement was that of instant photography.

Land's interest in light polarization began early. According to one source, "...he applied for the patent for his sheet polarizer just days before his 20th birthday." By this time, Land had already entered Harvard, studied for one year, and dropped out - to focus on his light polarization research. In fact, Land would drop out of Harvard twice - once in 1928 and once in 1932 - citing both times that he needed more tome to focus on research. In 1932 however, a former Harvard professor, George Wheelwright III, would join him to form the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories - later Polaroid Corp. Wheelwright would use Land's polarizing materials to manufacture modified versions of several products of the day, including: sunglasses and windshields, among other things.

The first Polaroid Land Camera (Black and White) hit the market in 1948. Not until a decade later did Land invent the color picture version of his masterpiece. The color Polaroid camera would hit the market in 1963.

Land's dedication to science and research won him the respect of many of prominent figures. In his later years, Land would join the secret intelligence panel to work for President Eisenhower on the U-2 spyplane project. And Harvard would eventually award Land an honorary doctorate for his life-long accomplishments.

Land's dedication to his interests in polarizing light led to an invention that made us all better off. The desire to view pictures instantly, no doubt, played a role in the technological progress of today's photo industry - specifically, the digital camera. IThis ability began with Land's Polaroid.



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