9th April 1830. Galloping Horses.
Today in 1830 Edward Muggeridge was born in the family shop in Kingston on Thames. Later to change his name to Eadweard (Anglo-Saxon for Edward) Muybridge, he became a noted landscape photographer under the name ‘Helios’, and pioneer motion picture photographer. (1)
Moving to America for a time it was in California, after firstly dealing in books and as a money lender, that Muybridge started dabbling in the new art and science of photography and became inspired by railroad magnate and horse breeder, Leland Stanford, to discover whether a galloping horse left the ground completely.
Muybridge rigged up a row of twelve cameras with each shutter connected to a wire stretched across the racetrack. As the horses tripped the shutters in sequence, a series of photos was created showing the position of the horse at each instant.
He stuck the images on a rotating disc and shone a light through them and was able to prove conclusively that for a time all feet were off the ground.
The invention of photography in the early part of the century was the spur to the quest to discover how moving pictures could be made following Roget’s theory of the Persistence of Vision in 1824 which codified a phenomenon observed for centuries.
This optical illusion by presenting sequences of still images in succession is interpreted as continuous movement.
Inventors in the early 19thc were making efforts to use the knowledge of Persistence of Vision in a practical way initially with simple toys such as Horner’s Daedulum of 1834.
In the 1850.s parlour audiences were entertained by Magic Lantern Shows, and by 1875 in England J.A.R.Rudge had invented a magic lantern projector that could show seven phases of action in rapid time.
In 1861 Muybridge returned to England and set up as a professional photographer using the Wet Plate Collodion Method before returning to America.
In 1894 he returned to England permanently and died at the house of his cousin at Kingston on 8th May 1904 which now hosts the British Film Institute Collection.
Today Muybridge is largely unknown but in the pantheon of discovery ranks along with Edison, Faraday and Bell in the development of 19thc technology, and his split-second photography shrank the distance between space and time which in the process delivered a virtual world a harbinger of Hollywood and the electronics of Silicon Valley.
(1) His father was a corn and coal merchant.
filmsite.org/Pic of Horner’s Daedulum.
commons.wikipedia.org/Horse in Motion/ Pic.