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  Eadweard Muybridge

Edward James Muggeridge was born to John and Susannah Smith Muggeridge on April 9, 1830 in Kingston upon Thames, England. He would later change his name to Eadweard Muybridge because he believed it more reflective of the Saxon monarchs associated with his birthplace. At the age of 22, he moved to the United States, where he worked briefly as a printer before boldly deciding to focus on his interest in photography as a career. He quickly established himself in the West as one of the region's foremost landscape photographers. Mr. Muybridge's life as a traveling photographer was arduous because the wet plate collodion techniques of the era required he transport all of his chemicals, sensitizing and processing equipment over rugged terrain. By the early 1870s, Mr. Muybridge had produced an impressive 2,000 photographs, later ranked by photo historians as some of the best landscape images of their time.

In 1872, when employed as a photographer in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey of the Pacific Coast, Mr. Muybridge became fascinated by the work of French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey, and he too began studying animal movement. He soon caught the attention of former California governor Leland Stanford, who commissioned Mr. Muybridge to prove conclusively that when a horse gallops all four feet are, at some point, simultaneously off the ground. This began a six-year period at Governor Stanford's stud farm, researching and attempting to record horse movements through motion photography. That same year, he married 21-year-old divorcee Flora Shallcross Stone, who within two years gave birth to son Florado Helios Muybridge. Because of his frequent absences from home, the photographer suspected his young wife was being unfaithful and became convinced the child was fathered by her friend, a soldier known as Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, Mr. Muybridge tracked down and shot his supposed rival to death. The sensational murder trial that followed featured an insanity defense, with his attorney arguing his client has suffered a serious head injury after an 1860 stagecoach accident. The jury was not convinced, but did acquit Mr. Muybridge of 'justifiable homicide'. Though the scandal did not ruin his career - Governor Stanford bankrolled his defense - it irreparably damaged his marriage and resulted in the premature death of Flora Muybridge. The child was placed in a Catholic orphanage, and his photographs as a young man ironically reveal a striking resemblance to Eadweard Muybridge.

After the trial, Mr. Muybridge returned to the Stanford farm where he successfully developed faster shutter speeds and with the use of 24 cameras provided undeniable proof that all four feet are off the ground at times while horses are galloping. His photographic evidence were published in an 1878 issue of The Scientific American. Readers were encouraged to cut out the photographs and place them in a zoetrope so they could recreate the movements for themselves. Mr. Muybridge later conducted exhaustive investigations of human movement, and invented a zoopraxiscope, which earned him the title, "Father of the Motion Picture." The University of Pennsylvania commissioned him to write a 2,000-page report entitled "Animal Locomotion," which also included 781 plates when it was published in 1887. Six years later, at the World's Columbian Exposition, Mr. Muybridge introduced his zoopraxography machine that projected motion pictures, which transformed Chicago's Zoopraxographical Hall into the first movie theater.

Eadweard Muybridge returned to his hometown of Kingston upon Thames in 1900, and died there on May 8, 1904 at the age of 74. Some of his plates are featured in the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, while others, along with his zoopraxiscope, are currently on display at the Kingston Museum.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 701.

2007 Muybridge, Eadweard by Robert Leggat (URL:

2013 Penn Biographies: Eadward Muybridge (1830-1904) (URL:

1983 They Left Their Mark: Famous Passages through the Wine Country by Joan Parry Dutton (Austin, TX: Illuminations Press), pp. 94-95, 99.

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2014-10-29 21:28:02

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