of the instant camera
Edwin Herbert Land was born in
Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 7, 1909. He
graduated from the Norwich Free Academy, a
semi-private high school, and then studied
chemistry at Harvard University for a year before
heading to New York City.
In 1926, while still at
Harvard, Land noted that polarized light was a
very useful tool for studying organic materials.
The available instrument for such polarisation
studies, however, was cumbersome and expensive,
so Land decided to develop something better.
Taking a leave of absence, he developed a new
kind of polarizer by aligning and embedding
crystals in a plastic sheet. He called this
After developing Polaroid film,
Land decided to return to Harvard, but left again
in his senior year to found a laboratory. Joined
by other young scientists, he applied the
polarizing principle to light filters, optical
devices, and motion picture processes. In 1937
the group became the Polaroid Corporation, with
Land as president and head of research. During World War II,
the corporation invented infrared filters,
dark-adaptation goggles, and target finders for
the military. It also developed a microscope for
viewing living cells in natural color.
Polaroid Land Camera
One day, while on vacation in
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Land's three-year-old
daughter asked to see the pictures the family had
taken that day. While trying to explain to her
why she would have to wait for the film to be
developed before she could see the pictures, Land
decided there had to be a way for his little girl
to see pictures sooner.
On February 1, 1947, Land
demonstrated an instant camera and associated
film. Called the Polaroid Land Camera, 57 of them
were put up for sale at Boston's Jordan Marsh
department store just in time for the 1948
Christmas shopping season. All 57 cameras and all
of the film were sold on the first day of
Altogether, Edwin Land held 535
patents, second only to Thomas Edison's 1,097.
For his contributions to the fields of polarized
light, photography, and color perception, Land
received numerous awards and honorary degrees,
including the Presidential Medal of Freedom
(1963) and the National Medal of Technology
(1988). In 1977, he was inducted into the
National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was also
listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for
a time as the world's richest scientist. He died
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 31, 1991.
The Great Idea Finder www.ideafinder.com/history/inventors/land.htm
Questions or comments about