Edwin Land: Inventor of Instant Photography

On this day, May 7 in the year 1909, Edwin Herbert Land was born in Connecticut, USA. He is credited as the inventor of instant camera which made it possible for a picture to be taken and developed in 60 seconds or less. He is also known as the founder of Polaroid Corporation which was the vehicle to manufacture and distribute his camera and other devices notably sunglasses.

Edwin H. Land
Edwin H. Land (Credit: Facebook Page)

Land’s parents were of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He enrolled at Harvard University to study chemistry but quit school after only a year. He moved to New York where he developed his Polaroid film. In 1932, he formed the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories to commercialize the technology. The company was renamed Polaroid Corporation in 1937.

In the succeeding years, Land developed dark-adaptation goggles, target finders, smart bombs, and a special stereoscopic viewing system which he called the Vectograph. In 1947, he produced the first instant camera but would only be commercialized two years later.

In 1957, Harvard awarded Land an honorary doctorate. During the cold war period, he contributed a lot to the development of advanced photo intelligence devices including the optics used in spy planes. But he considered his Retinex theory of color vision his crowning glory.

Land is more of a scientist than as a business manager. In 1977, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. At the time of his death in 1991, he held 535 patents.

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