Eadweard Muybridge biography
Hollywood couldn't have devised a more titillating scenario. Eadweard Muybridge, an eccentric inventor, was on the verge of a truly revolutionary discovery when his young wife had an affair. Muybridge killed the suitor in cold blood and was later acquitted on a verdict of "justifiable homicide." He resumed his work and developed a miraculous process for capturing movement on film, laying the ground work for the motion picture industry.
Edward James Muggeridge was born on April 9, 1830 to John and Susan Muggeridge of Kingston upon Thames, England. At age twenty, he immigrated to America, first to New York, working as a bookseller, and then to San Francisco, where he acquired an interest in photography in 1855. At this time, he changed his surname to Muybridge.
On a business trip to the East Coast, Muybridge received serious head injuries in a stage coach accident. He suffered from double vision and confusion, and friends noticed a marked difference in his behavior. Studies by modern neurologists examining the medical records speculate that the injury to his frontal cortex might have led to some emotional and eccentric behavior later in his life.
After his convalescence, Muybridge returned to San Francisco and took up photography full-time. Under the pseudonym "Helios," he set out to record the scenery of the west with his mobile darkroom. He produced a wide array of panoramic landscape photographs, most famously of Yosemite Valley, and traveled to Alaska to photograph the Tlingit people.
As Muybridge's reputation as a photographer grew in the late 1800s, former California Governor Leland Stanford contacted him to help settle a bet. Speculation raged for years over whether all four hooves of a running horse left the ground. Stanford believed they did, but the motion was too fast for human eyes to detect. In 1872, Muybridge began experimenting with an array of 12 cameras photographing a galloping horse in a sequence of shots. His initial efforts seemed to prove that Stanford was right, but he didn’t have the process perfected.
Between 1878 and 1884, Muybridge perfected his method of horses in motion, proving that they do have all four hooves off the ground during their running stride.
Muybridge worked at the University of Pennsylvania between 1883 and 1886, producing thousands of photographs of humans and animals in motion. During the remaining years of his life, he published several books featuring his motion photographs and toured Europe and North America, presenting his photographic methods using a projection device he'd developed, the Zoopraxiscope.
Personal Life and Death
During a break from his photographic research in the 1870s, Muybridge took several photographic expeditions in and around California. On one of these, his wife, Flora, had an affair with Major Harry Larkyns, a drama critic. Believing that Larkyns had fathered the couple's recently born son, Muybridge tracked him down, and shot and killed him. At his trial for murder in 1875, several witnesses testified that Muybridge's personality had changed after the accident.
The jury didn't buy the insanity defense, but acquitted Muybridge on the grounds of "justifiable homicide."
Muybridge died on May 8, 1904 at his birthplace. His contributions to art and photography spurred the works of other inventors, including Thomas Edison and Etienne-Jules Marey. Muybridge's innovative camera techniques enabled people to see things otherwise too fast to comprehend, and his sequence images continue to inspire artists from other disciplines to this day.