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Edwin Land Biography: How the Polaroid Corporation Changed the World

Polaroid became very popular nowadays. Its simplicity and instant output for your photos made it more convenient than having to print it. This was the work of Edwin Land, a scientist, and inventor who invented it back in the late 1940s.

He was a master at anything relating to lights and optics. Many projects from animation to war equipment used his knowledge. This is how a brilliant scientist had achieved such feats.

The Dropout Scientist

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Born on May 7th, 1909 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Edwin Land was a chemist major Harvard student. However, he dropped out not long after to move to New York.

He constantly worked on independent science experiments while living in New York. Relied on books in the New York Public library and a lab in Colombia University, he researched light polarization.

His efforts soon bore fruit, since he advances development in light polarization technology. He called his first discovery the Polaroid J sheet.

The Formation of Polaroid Corporation

After his discovery, Edwin Land returned to Harvard to focus on chemistry and physics studies. With his professor, he created Land-Wheelright Laboratories to help his polarization researches.

From this very laboratory, the Polaroid Corporation was formed in 1937. This corporation pushed forward light polarization technology.

At first, it contributed to color animations and sunglasses. But at the midst of world war two, it shifted towards creating optical equipment for the military

World War Two

Polaroid gave a lot of contribution to optics during the war. They developed and improved technology such as night vision.

One of its advanced technologies, Vectograph, can be used to detect enemy camouflage. More military contributions were done after the war, such as the development of the U-2 Spy Plane.

Cameras of The Future

Way back in 1943, his daughter asked him why cameras can’t produce photos instantly. This question lingered with him and soon found inspiration in it.

After several years of combined research between the camera and light polarization technologies, he invented the first instant camera in 1947. Named Polaroid Land Camera, it sold out almost instantly.

15 years later, he developed the color-photo version of the same camera. This leads to another development of the first colored instant film in the 1970s.

His winning streak soon ran out, however. In 1977, he tried developing Polavision, which was colored film that can be watched instantly on the television. This failed horribly and forced him to resign from his company.

The legacy of The Scientist

His success in Polaroid made him neglect his Harvard studies. But Harvard still gave him an honorary doctorate due to his major scientific breakthroughs.

With hundreds of patents distributed to all his plans, he gained a considerable amount of money. He then used this to build the Rowland Institute for Science.

Land loved to take and collect photographs. In his free time, he traded many cameras to various photographers so they could give him their photographs.

After 81 years, Edwin Land passed away on 1st of March, 1991. Unfortunately, many of Polaroid’s history were forever lost when his assistant destroyed his papers.


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