You’re likely aware that Google often embeds cool stuff into their main search page logo, typically coinciding with a holiday of some sort. For today’s “Doodle” they’ve actually turned the logo into a video celebrating the work of Eadweard Muybridge, who was rocking a fucked-up Hollywood name spelling before it was cool.
Known primarily for planting a seed that most agree led to the development of the earliest motion-picture technology that led all the way through Edison and the Lumiere Bros, Muybridge’s innovation was actually the result of a rich man’s gamble. The governor of California had bets placed with his rich horse-owning buddies on whether or not horses ever carried themselves in a gallop with all four feet off the ground. He hired photographic talent Muybridge to work on this question, and after refining processes that allowed him to make great leaps in shutter speed (going from seconds-long exposure to 1/2000th of a second exposures), Muybridge came up with this…
Perhaps an equally famous early film image as the rocket in the moon’s eye, this set of photos not only settled a scientific question, it led to the development of devices that would replicate photographic motion for a viewer. In the case of Muybridge’s own Zoopraxiscope, light was blasted from behind a rotating glass disc with painted silhouettes and a shutter to create the illusion of motion. These and other zoetrope-style devices are largely credited for inspiring Edison and his team to create the Kinetoscope- the first motion-picture camera as we conceive of them today.
Muybridge was also responsible for a lot of other important photochemical developments, biological discoveries, and more, but you might be interested to learn that he was also responsible for straight whacking a dude who was porking his wife, and that motherfucker got away with it.
Discovering his wife’s affair, he tracked down the man and — after delivering a one-liner straight out of a Victorian action movie — shot him dead. Supposedly he quipped, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” before blowing the guy away, and yet a lawyer (paid for by Muybridge’s horse-interested benefactor) was able to get him off not with an insanity defense (which they tried) but by arguing “justifiable homicide.”
That’s enough of a wiki-deep look at the fascinating character that was Eadweard Muybridge for now, but I’d really suggest you do your own diving into his life, work, and the resulting inventions that came from him and others at the time. It’s really cool stuff that represents the very DNA from which our beloved medium was built, so click around.
UPDATE: A good start might be this short doc that The Atlantic plucked out of an internet archive, called It Started With Muybridge.