Media File
Harold Eugene Edgerton
Date: American scientist and photographer, 1903–1990
Biography: The photographs of Dr. Harold “Doc” Edgerton redefined the limits of vision, showing things invisible to the unaided eye. His ultra-high-speed photographs stop time and make it possible to witness split seconds. Produced with strobes, Edgerton’s exposures could be as brief as 1/1,000,000th of a second, allowing him to capture a bullet piercing an apple or a hummingbird in flight. A professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Edgerton invented technology to better understand the world around him. Similarly, he used photographs to make scientific phenomena accessible and interesting for ordinary people.

Published in Life magazine and National Geographic and displayed frequently at the Museum of Modern Art, Edgerton’s photographs have amazed millions since the late 1930s. And although he photographed in the service of scientific and commercial research, Edgerton appreciated the importance of aesthetics to create wonder and communicate ideas. For 25 years he labored to get the perfect picture of a milk drop and the coronet created by its splash—the resulting 1957 photograph is one of the most familiar images of modern visual culture. The enduring appeal of Edgerton’s photographs results from his combination of technological innovation and visual allure.