Reading List

For more information about Harold E. Edgerton:

There are dozens of articles, books, and films about ‘Doc’ Edgerton and his work, ranging from popular articles in newspapers to complex technical papers.  Although many of the books listed below are no longer in print, they can still be found second-hand and in local libraries.

A good place to start is the excellent biographical article, which includes a useful selective bibliography, written for the National Science Academy in 2005 by the director of the Edgerton Center at M.I.T., Kim Vandiver, with the collaboration of Pagan Kennedy.

  • J. Kim Vandiver and Pagan Kennedy, “Harold E. Edgerton (1903-1990),” Biographical Memoirs Vol. 86 (Washington D.C.: National Academies Press), pp. 1-23. Online at:

Two publications associated with a recent MIT Museum exhibition celebrating Edgerton’s life and work are also to be recommended:

  • Joyce E. Bedi, “The Man Who Stopped Time,” American Heritage of Invention and Technology (13 (Summer 1997): 34-41.
  • Roger R. Bruce (editor), et al., Seeing the Unseen: Dr. Harold E. Edgerton and the Wonders of Strobe Alley (Rochester, NY: The Publishing Trust of George Eastman House, distributed by The MIT Press, 1994).

Edgerton’s iconic images are showcased in another popular book curated by his former student and long-time portfolio agent Gus Kayafas, of Palm Press, Inc.:

  • Gus Kayafas, Estelle Jussim and Harold E. Edgerton, Stopping Time:  The Photographs of Harold Edgerton (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987).

For those interested in acquiring a more in-depth technical understanding of Edgerton’s research, and perhaps seeking inspiration to replicate some of his techniques, a serious yet very accessible book is Edgerton’s textbook:

  • Harold E. Edgerton, Electronic Flash, Strobe, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992).  The original edition was published in 1970.  New material was added in 1979 and 1987.  The 1992 version is the second printing of the 3rd edition.

Two older books written by Edgerton and former MIT President James Killian are considered key works:

  • Harold E. Edgerton and James R. Killian, Jr., Flash!  Seeing the Unseen by Ultra High-Speed Photography (Boston: Charles T. Branford Co., 1954).  The first edition was published in 1939.
  • Harold E. Edgerton and James R. Killian, Jr., Moments of Vision: The Stroboscopic Revolution in Photography (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1979).

Towards the end of his life Edgerton produced a book on sonar underwater imaging techniques that featured works by colleagues around the world — showcasing the long-ranging legacy of his early pioneering work in the field.

  • Harold E. Edgerton, Sonar Images. (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1986).

Doc Edgerton has been featured as author and scientist in several National Geographic Magazine articles since his initial collaboration with the NGS began in the 1940s.  Many of his projects are celebrated in the following article:

  • Erla Swingle, “‘Doc’ Edgerton: The Man Who Made Time Stand Still,” National Geographic 172 (October 1987): 464-483.

Prepared by Claire Calcagno and Deborah Douglas