Alum Edgerton's work among "Most Influential Images of All Time"
By photographing moments that last a millisecond or so, Harold Edgerton forever changed the way the world looks at itself.
The Nebraska Engineering alum's lifelong work to improve stroboscopic technology also led to some of the most striking and beautiful images, and one of them – a high-speed, stop-action photo titled, "Milk Drop Coronet" – is included in TIME's "100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time."
The TIME online article about Edgerton's photo includes some of his other influential photography and a video about Edgerton and his work.
A 1925 University of Nebraska electrical engineering graduate, Edgerton is known as the father of high-speed photography. His work on electrical engines while a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology led to his improvement of stroboscopic technology available at that time and to a greater scientific understanding of the world.
The color photo chosen by TIME – a 1957 shot of a milk drop hitting a red plate – is only one in a series of thousands of photos Edgerton took trying to capture the splashes of milk and other liquids.
In an article about the importance of "Milk Drop Coronet" and of Edgerton's entire body of photographic work, TIME wrote:
"Before Harold Edgerton rigged a milk dropper next to a timer and a camera of his own invention, it was virtually impossible to take a good photo in the dark without bulky equipment. It was similarly futile to try to photograph a fleeting moment. But in the 1950s at his lab at MIT, Edgerton started tinkering with a process that would change the future of photography. There the electrical-engineering professor combined high-tech strobe lights with camera shutter motors to capture moments imperceptible to the naked eye. 'Milk Drop Coronet,' his revolutionary stop-motion photograph, freezes the impact of a drop of milk on a table, a crown of liquid discernible to the camera for only a millisecond. The picture proved that photography could advance human understanding of the physical world, and the technology Edgerton used to take it laid the foundation for the modern electronic flash.
Edgerton worked for years to perfect his milk-drop photographs, many of which were black and white; one version was featured in the first photography exhibition at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. And while the man known as Doc captured other blink-and-you-missed-it moments, like balloons bursting and a bullet piercing an apple, his milk drop remains a quintessential example of photography's ability to make art out of evidence."
Among the other images chosen by the TIME include a protestor staring down tanks in Tiananmen Square, Ellen DeGeneres' selfie at the 2015 Oscars, Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston, a sailor and a nurse kissing in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II, the possible sighting of the Loch Ness monster, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mohandas Gandhi and Demi Moore, and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.
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