Dr Harold Edgerton

Photography has illuminated so many areas of the 20th century, but none more so than the remarkable work by one of photography's true pioneers, Dr Harold Edgerton (1903-1990). As the inventor of the 'strobe' flash in the early 1930's, the 'Doc.' as he was affectionately known, stopped time in its tracks. For the first time we were able to see the wonderful arc of the golf swing (as pictured here) or the innate beauty of the 'crown' as a droplet hits a pool of milk. Born in Fremont, Nebraska, the Doc was raised in Aurora and then enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1926. It was during his time as a professor at MIT that he invented the electronic flash and devoted his career to recording what the unaided eye cannot see.


In 1986 the Spencer Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of his work exhibited alongside that of Leonardo da Vinci.

His influence is still felt today, as we still use his invention in contemporary flash cameras, although their size has somewhat changed. Many journalists, photographers, scientists, inventors, industrialists and naturalists have all paid tribute to him for altering the way we look at the world and for controlling and explaining its unseen happenings.

In one particular image, the famous golfer Densmore Shute, well-known for the style and grace of his strokes, swings his driver into an Archimedean spiral - photographed at 100 flashes per second for half a second. His torso dissolves into a ghostly shape, superimposed on itself 50 times by the flashing strobe. Note the curving of the shaft after the ball is hit.