EDWIN HERBERT LAND
Physicist, Scientist, Inventor
Famously known as
Co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation
May 7, 1909
March 1, 1991
“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
“You always start with a fantasy.”
“If you sense a deep human need, then you go back to all the basic science. If there is some missing, then you try to do more basic science and applied science until you get it.”
“The purpose of inventing instant photography was essentially aesthetic.”
Edwin Land was born in Connecticut, United States in 1909.
In 1929, when Land was still an undergraduate in Harvard University, he created polariser, an optical filter which passes light of specific polarised light and blocks waves of other polarised light, at the age of 20.
The technology of polariser has a wide range of applications. It was used in the production of sunglasses, military hardware and color animation.
In 1937, the Polaroid Corporation was officially established.
In 1939, Polaroid created color animation for jukeboxes, 3D glasses for movies, and the ability to dim light coming through a window.
In 1943, Land’s 3-year-old daughter asked him why she could not see the photo immediately after it was taken. He felt a rush of inspiration.
His answer to this? 4 years later in 1947, Polaroid one-step instant camera, the world’s first instant camera was invented.
In late 1948, this never-before-seen camera – called the Polaroid Land Camera – hit stores shelves, made an instant success and took the world by storm. It was available in sepia tones only.
In 1950, Polaroid’s first instant camera using black and white film was born. It was popular for both military and civilian photography.
Harvard University awarded Land an honorary doctorate in 1957 for his lifetime of scientific achievement.
Polacolor, the first instant camera using color film was introduced in 1963.
Land was a pioneer as a manager of Polaroid. In 1960’s he hired women and minorities for management and research positions ahead of many other firms.
In 1971, Land formulated and introduced Retinex theory – both the eyes and the brain are involved in the processing.
In 1972, Land introduced Polaroid SX-70 – a camera with the picture emerging from the camera automatically. It has become one of the most popular products and increased the company’s revenue by 4 times from 1961 to 1972.
A failure of film venture called Polavision was a financial disaster to the company. Land resigned as Chairperson of Polaroid in 1980.
After retiring, Land founded the ‘Rowland Institute for Science’ to go on his research on optics. His lab eventually discovered how color is perceived in the human brain.
In 1991, Edwin Land died in Cambridge, at the age of 81.