(From Wikipedia, the
Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 8, 1904) was an English photographer, known
primarily for his early use of multiple cameras to capture motion, and his
zoopraxiscope, a device for projecting motion pictures that pre-dated the
celluloid film strip that is still used today.Muybridge was born Edward
James Muggeridge at Kingston upon Thames, England. He is believed to have
changed his first name to match that of King Eadweard as shown on the
plinth of the Kingston coronation stone, which was re-erected in Kingston
in 1850. Although he didn't change his first name until the 1870s, he
changed his surname to Muygridge early in his San Francisco career and
then changed it again to Muybridge at the launch of his photographic
career or during the missing years between.
In 1855 Muybridge arrived in San Francisco, starting his career as a
publisher's agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that
decade, and after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head
injuries returned to England for a few years. He reappeared in San
Francisco in 1866 as a photographer named Muybridge and rapidly became
successful in the profession, focusing almost entirely on landscape and
architectural subjects. (He is not known to have ever made a photographic
portrait, though group shots by him survive.) His photographs were sold by
various photographic entrepreneurs on Montgomery Street (most notable the
firm of Bradley & Rulofson), San Francisco's main commercial street,
during those years.
Muybridge began to build his reputation in 1867 with photos of Yosemite
and San Francisco (many of the Yosemite photographs reproduced the same
scenes taken by Carleton Watkins). Muybridge quickly became famous for his
landscape photographs, which showed the grandeur and expansiveness of the
West. The images were published under the pseudonym “Helios.” In the
summer of 1868 Muybridge was commissioned to photograph one of the U.S.
Army's expeditions into the recently territorialized Alaska purchase.
In 1871 the California Geological Survey invited Muybridge to photograph
for the High Sierra survey. That same year he married Flora Stone. He then
spent several years traveling as a successful photographer. By 1873 the
Central Pacific Railroad had advanced into Indian territory and the United
States Army hired Muybridge to photograph the ensuing Modoc Wars.
In 1872, former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and
race-horse owner, had taken a position on a popularly-debated question of
the day: whether all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same
time during a gallop. Stanford sided with this assertion, called
"unsupported transit", and took it upon himself to prove it
scientifically. (Though legend also includes a wager of up to $25,000,
there is no evidence of this.) Stanford sought out Muybridge and hired him
to settle the question. Muybridge's relationship with Stanford was long
and fraught, heralding both his entrance and exit from the history books.
To prove Stanford's claim, Muybridge developed a scheme for instantaneous
motion picture capture. Muybridge's technology involved chemical formulas
for photographic processing and an electrical trigger created by the chief
engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, John D. Isaacs. It is
important to underscore Muybridge's collaboration with John D. Isaacs. The
design for the trigger to set off each camera was what eluded Muybridge
for so long and without Isaacs' help, Muybridge's contraption would never
have come into existence.
In 1877, Muybridge settled Stanford's question with a single photographic
negative showing Stanford's racehorse Occident airborne in the midst of a
gallop. This negative was lost, but it survives through woodcuts made at
By 1878, spurred on by Stanford to expand the experiment, Muybridge had
successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of
twenty-four cameras. The first experience successfully took place on June
11 with the press present. Muybridge used a series of 12 stereoscopic
cameras, 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by one horse stride,
taking pictures at one thousandth of a second. The cameras were arranged
parallel to the track, with trip-wires attached to each camera shutter
triggered by the horse's hooves.
This series of photos, taken at what is now Stanford University, is called
The Horse in Motion, and shows that the hooves do all leave the ground —
although not with the legs fully extended forward and back, as
contemporary illustrators tended to imagine, but rather at the moment when
all the hooves are tucked under the horse, as it switches from "pulling"
from the front legs to "pushing" from the back legs.
The relationship between the mercurial Muybridge and his patron broke down
in 1882 when Stanford commissioned a book called The Horse in Motion as
Shown by Instantaneous Photography which omitted actual photographs by
Muybridge, relying instead on drawings and engravings based on the
photographs, and which gave Muybridge scant credit for his work.
The lack of photographs was likely simply due to the printing constraints
of the time but Muybridge took it as a slap in the face and filed an
unsuccessful law suit against Stanford. In 1874, still living in the San
Francisco Bay Area, Muybridge discovered that his wife had a lover, a
Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns; said,
"Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the
letter you sent my wife"; he then proceeded to fatally shoot the major.
Muybridge believed Larkyns to be his son's true father, although, as an
adult, he bore a remarkable resemblance to Muybridge. He was put on trial
for murder, but was acquitted as a "justifiable homicide." The inquiry
interrupted his horse photography experiment, but not his relationship
with Stanford, who paid for his criminal defense.
An interesting aspect of Muybridge's defense was a plea of insanity due to
a head injury Muybridge sustained following his stagecoach accident.
Friends testified that the accident dramatically changed Muybridge's
personality from genial and pleasant to unstable and erratic. Although the
jury dismissed the insanity plea, it is not unlikely that Muybridge did
experience emotional changes due to brain damage in the frontal cortex,
often associated with traumatic head injuries.
After the acquittal, Muybridge left the U.S. for a time to take
photographs in Central America, returning in 1877. His had his son,
Florado Helios Muybridge (nicknamed "Floddie" by friends), put in an
orphanage. As an adult, Floddie worked as a ranch hand and gardener. At 29
he was hit by a car and did not survive his injuries.
This episode in Muybridge's life is the subject of The Photographer, a
1982 opera by Philip Glass, with words drawn from the trial and
Muybridge's letters to his wife.
Several of his photographic sequences were published in 1980 as
coffee-table books under the title Studies of Animal Locomotion.
Hoping to capitalize upon the considerable public attention those pictures
drew, Muybridge invented the Zoopraxiscope, a machine similar to the
Zoetrope, but that projected the images so the public could see realistic
motion. The system was, in many ways, a precursor to the development of
the motion picture film. His presentations, in Europe and the United
States, were widely acclaimed by both the public and specialist audiences
of scientists and artists.
At the Chicago 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Muybridge gave a series
of lectures on the Science of Animal Locomotion in the Zoopraxographical
Hall, built specially for that purpose in the "Midway Plaisance" arm of
the exposition. He used his zoopraxiscope to show his moving pictures to a
paying public making the Hall, the very first commercial movie theater.
At the University of Pennsylvania and the local zoo Muybridge used banks
of cameras to photograph people and animals to study their movement. The
models, either entirely nude or with as little clothing as a cache-sexe,
were photographed in a variety of undertakings, ranging from boxing, to
walking down stairs, to throwing water over one another and carrying
buckets of water. Between 1883 and 1886 he made a total of 100,000 images,
working under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania. They were
published as 781 plates comprising 20,000 of the photographs; a collection
titled Animal Locomotion. Muybridge's work stands near the beginning
of the science of biomechanics and the mechanics of athletics.
Recent scholarship has pointed to the influence of Étienne Jules de Marey
on Muybridge's later work. Muybridge visited Marey's studio in France and
saw Marey's stop-motion studies before returning to the U.S. to further
his own work in the same area. However, whereas Marey's scientific
achievements in the realms of cardiology and aerodynamics (as well as
pioneering work in photography and chronophotography) are indisputable,
Muybridge's efforts were to some degree artistic rather than scientific.
As Muybridge himself explained, in some of his published sequences he
substituted images where exposures failed, in order to illustrate a
representative movement (rather than producing a strictly scientific
recording of a particular sequence). Also, his creation of images of nude
women in all manner of poses seems rooted in prurient rather than
Similar setups of carefully timed multiple cameras are used in modern
special effects photography with the opposite goal: capturing changing
camera angles with little or no movement of the subject.
Eadweard Muybridge returned to his native England in 1894, published two
further, popular books of his work, and died on May 8, 1904 in Kingston
upon Thames while living at the home of his cousin Catherine Smith, Park
View, 2 Liverpool Road. The house has a British Film Institute
commemorative plaque on the outside wall. Muybridge was cremated and his
ashes interred at Woking.