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Muybridge, Eadweard James,

stanford locomotion photographer animal

originally Edward James Muggeridge [ moy brij] (1830–1904) British–US photographer: pioneered use of photography to study animal locomotion.

Born Edward James Muggeridge, Muybridge believed the adopted spelling was the Anglo-Saxon form of his name. Muybridge emigrated to California when he was 22 and became a professional photographer. His ‘composite’ landscapes were impressive, and by about 1870 he was the official photographer to the US Government.

In 1872 ex-governor Leland Stanford of California commissioned Muybridge to photograph his horses in motion, to resolve an argument about the horse’s gait, but his first efforts failed to give decisive results. (Stanford was rich; his will bequests included 2½ million dollars to ‘the Leland Stanford Junior University’, named in memory of his son). Muybridge was interrupted in this work by his trial for the murder of his wife’s lover. He was acquitted, and after a prudent absence he returned to the problem in the late 1870s and soon proved that a galloping horse has all its feet off the ground at times (as Stanford had claimed). He used a battery of up to 24 small cameras with shutters speeded to 1/500 s and released by clockwork or by threads successively broken by the horse.

His books and lectures on animal locomotion broke new ground and attracted both scientific and popular audiences. By the 1880s, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, he was using up to 36 cameras and the new faster dry plates to study running and jumping men, as well as animals; his book Animal Locomotion (1887) contains over 20 000 figures. Despite its high price, the book sold well, probably because the largest category of photographs showed nude women engaged in such actions as falling, jumping and throwing water at one another. Muybridge devised projection equipment for sequential pictures (the Zoopraxiscope, 1879) and his Zoopraxographical Hall in Chicago in 1893 has been claimed as ‘the world’s first motion picture theatre’. However, a cinema as we now know it was first opened by the Lumière brothers in Paris in late 1895.

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