Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Muybridge, Eadweard

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MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD (1830–1904), investigator of animal locomotion, born at Kingston-on-Thames on 9 April 1830, was the son of John Muggeridge, corn-chandler, of Kingston, by his wife Susannah. His original names of Edward James Muggeridge he soon converted into Eadweard Muybridge. Migrating to America in early life, he at first adopted a commercial career, and then, turning his attention to photography, he became director of the photographic surveys of the United States government. In 1872, whilst engaged in his official duties on the Pacific coast, he was consulted as to an old controversy in regard to animal locomotion, viz. whether a trotting horse at any portion of its stride has all its feet entirely off the ground. On the race-course at Sacramento, California, in May 1872, he made several negatives of Occident, a celebrated horse, while trotting laterally in front of his camera at speeds varying from 2 mins. 25 secs, to 2 mins. 18 secs, per mile. These experiments showed that the horse's four feet were at times all off the ground. He continued his experiments with a view to determining the actual visual appearance of various kinds of animal locomotion and their proper representation. The photographs for his earliest experiments were made with a single camera, and required a separate trotting for each exposure. His next experiments were made in 1877 on the stud-farm of Mr. Leland Stanford at Palo Alto, San Francisco, where he employed a number of cameras placed in a line, thus obtaining a succession of exposures at regulated intervals of time or distance. The cameras were arranged to obtain photographs of the subject from three different points of view; each movement was taken by a different camera on extremely rapid wet plates, the exposure at times being only one six-thousandth part of a second. The shutters of the cameras were operated by means of thin thread stretched across the path of the animal the record of whose movements was to be taken. Some of the results of these early experiments illustrating the action of horses whilst walking, trotting, or galloping were published in 1878 under the title of 'The Horse in Motion.' In his analysis of the quadrupedal walk, Muybridge arrived at the conclusion that the successive foot-fallings are invariable and are probably common to all quadrupeds. His investigations led to much modification of the treatment of animal movements in the works of painters and sculptors.

In order to project the pictures upon a screen so that they would appear to move, Muybridge invented, in 1881, a machine which he called the 'zoopraxiscope,' and which he claimed to be the first instrument devised for demonstrating, by synthetical reconstruction, movements originally photographed from life. The 'zoetrope,' or 'wheel of life,' which was invented about 1833 and had long been in popular use as a toy, had no like scientific pretension. Muybridge's 'zoopraxiscope' was widely employed. By its means horse-races were reproduced on a screen with such fidelity as to show the individual characteristics of the motion of each animal, flocks of birds flew with every movement of their wings clearly perceptible, two gladiators contended for victory, athletes turned somersaults, and the like. At the electrical congress in Paris in September 1881 Muybridge lectured before the assembled men of science with his newly animated illustrations for the first time in Europe at the laboratory of Dr. E. J. Marey (who was independently experimenting on Muybridge's lines). He also lectured in London, before the Royal Institution, in March 1882 and in March 1889, and at a conversatzione given by the Royal Society.

A wider investigation of animal movements was undertaken by Muybridge in 1884-5 under the auspices and at the charge of the university of Pennsylvania. More than 100,000 photographs plates were obtained and embodied in a work published at Philadelphia in 1887 as 'Animal Locomotion, an Electro-photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Movement, 1872-1885.' The work contains over 2000 figures of moving men, women, children, beasts, and birds, in 781 photo-engravings, bound in eleven folio volumes. The great cost of preparing and printing this work restricted its sale to a very few complete sets, and a selection of the most important plates on a reduced scale was published in London in 1899 as 'Animals in Motion.'

Muybridge's efforts led the way to the invention of the cinematograph, which was the immediate result of Dr. Marey's invention of the celluloid roll film in 1890.

When in England Muybridge resided at his birthplace, Kingston-on-Thames. He was there in 1895, but returned more than once to the United States before finally settling at Kingston in 1900. There he lived at 2 Liverpool Road with Mr. George Lawrence, whom he appointed his executor. In the grounds there he dug out a miniature reproduction to scale of the Great Lakes of America.

Muybridge died on 8 May 1904, and his remains were cremated at Woking. He bequeathed to the Kingston public library 3000l., in reversion after the death of a lady relative, the income to be applied to the purchase of works of reference, together with his lantern slides, zoopraxiscope, and a selection from the plates of his 'Animal Locomotion.'

Besides the works above mentioned, Muybridge published: 1. 'Descriptive Zoopraxography, or the Science of Animal Locomotion made Popular,' 1803 (abridged edition same year). 2. 'The Human Figure in Motion' (abridged from 'Animal Looomotion'), 1901. 3. 'The Science of Animal Locomotion (Zoopraxography),' n.d.

[The Bioscope, 1 Sept. 1910, pp. 3-5; H. V. Hopwood's Living Pictures. 1899 (with bibliography and list of patents); Haydn's Dict. of Dates, s.v. Zoopraxiscope; Illustrated Lond. News, 18 March 1882 and 26 May 1889 (portrait, p. 645); Proc. of the Royal Institution, 1882. x. 44-66. 1889, xii. 444-5; information kindly supplied by Mr. B. Carter, librarian of the Kingston Public Library.]

C. W.