Edgerton Demonstrates Stroboscopic and High-Speed Photography

1966, 1970s
MIT laboratory, MIT campus, Cambridge MA
Black & White, Color
Harold E. Edgerton
Film type:
original 16 mm film includes Kodachrome, ECO and B&W stock spliced together
Run time:
Harold E. Edgerton
Harold E. Edgerton showcases his achievements with stroboscopic and high-speed photography in this film that he likely compiled for a National Geographic Society lecture in 1966, with additional footage added in the early 1970s. His demonstrations range from experiments with mechanical equipment to microscope photography, and include images of bullets, fan blades, sewing machines, golf balls, hummingbirds, the inner surface of the eye, a rodeo, a satellite, and a lighthouse. An amusing illustration of a strobe light is presented by a group of MIT students at Edgerton’s Strobe Alley laboratory.

Tagged: beacon, blade, bullet, card, cloud chamber, copepod, drop, fan, Gemini VII, golf ball, high speed photography, hummingbird, lighthouse, machine, microcirculation, microscope, multiflash, National Geographic Society, ophthalmology, piddler, playing card, rodeo, satellite, sewing machine, slow motion, spindle, stroboscope

00:00:01 Introductory information: film title, synopsis, date, run time.
00:00:10 Photo of door, which reads “Elect. Eng. Dept. Stroboscopic Light Laboratory, Prof. Edgerton, D. Mather.”
00:00:16 Panning view of photographs on the walls in “Strobe Alley,” the fourth floor hallway in MIT’s Building 4 where Harold E. Edgerton had his laboratory and office.
00:00:36 A group of MIT freshmen walk through Strobe Alley carrying stroboscopic discs.
00:00:50 Students demonstrate how a stroboscopic disc will read ‘MIT’ when it is made to spin and a strobe light is set to the proper rate of flash.
00:01:18 Edgerton talks to students about stroboscopic discs and demonstrates how to use a strobe light with the discs.
00:01:48 Edgerton walks along the hallway with another man, pointing out his photographs mounted on the walls outside the Department of Electrical Engineering Laboratory.
00:01:55 Detail of Edgerton’s 1934 b/w still photograph of smoke vortices at the tips of moving fan blades, revealing patterns of airflow. [cat.# HEE-NC-34004]
00:02:00 Edgerton continues to talk to his companion about the photograph display in the hallway.
00:02:12 Shadow photograph of a .30 caliber bullet penetrating a sheet of plexi-glass. This b/w picture was taken in 1962. [cat.# HEE-NC-62001]
00:02:16 Edgerton continues to talk to man about the photographs in the hallway before they enter Edgerton's office.
00:02:23 Edgerton prepares and adjusts various mechanical components to demonstrate the use of stroboscopic light for observing moving machine parts in use.
00:02:29 Close-up of a whirring motor.
00:02:37 Edgerton approaches the whirring motion with a hand-held strobe light and demonstrates the use of stroboscopic light for observing moving machine parts in use. Camera pans out and back in to a close-up of the motor.
00:03:15 Edgerton provides a second demonstration of the use of a strobe to investigate machinery movements, based on a study of the spindle speed measurement of an electric sewing machine. A ring traveler shows the winding of a thread at 10,000 r.p.m.s when ‘slowed’ by a stroboscopic light.
00:04:20 Edgerton provides a third demonstration of the use of strobe. A stream of water made visible with fluorescent dye is shown to be made of individual droplets in Edgerton’s famous ‘piddler’ machine, which is comprised of a tank, a stroboscopic light and a pump.
00:05:13 Edgerton and two men discuss how to photograph shooting a card in half, and then demonstrate the procedure.
00:06:43 Still image of a bullet cutting through a playing card of the 3 of hearts. [cat.# HEE-NC-60123]
00:06:49 Edgerton and two men look at photographs together.
00:06:54 Still image of a ruby throated hummingbird in flight. [cat.# HEE-SC-04809]
00:07:04 A woman looks at photographs of hummingbirds taken by Edgerton, published in the National Geographic Magazine and in the book Stalking Birds with Color Camera by Arthur A. Allen, also published by NGS.
00:07:56 Photograph of a man swinging a golf club, 1930s.
00:08:08 Photograph of a ginger-haired man setting up flash photography equipment.
00:08:13 Multi-flash photograph of a golf club striking a golf ball. [cat.# HEE-SC-05099]
00:08:21 Color photograph of a man looking at an experimental set-up for illuminating a cloud bubble chamber; three EG&G type FX-26 flash lamps flash in synchronization to illuminate bubbles in a 72-inch chamber at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (University of California, Berkeley). [cat.# HEE-SC-08788; see also Fig. 12-32 in Edgerton’s 1987 book “Electronic Flash, Strobe”]
00:08:31 Photograph of a hydrogen cloud chamber.
00:08:38 Photograph of two men with a microscope, and strobe flash apparatus.
00:08:48 Photograph of a copepod (a small crustacean).
00:08:53 Four men (including Dr. Rowe Wells, far left?) take photographs of the microcirculation of blood in the inner eye and compare the photographs of healthy eye capillaries to the diseased eye capillaries of a diabetic person. [e.g., cat. # HEE-SC-08990]
00:09:17 Two men look at a poster with b/w photographs of the microcirculation of blood within eye capillaries. The camera focuses on specific images.
00:09:38 Still high-speed photograph of Cecil Henley jumping off of his horse, Home Brew, at the rodeo held at Boston Garden in 1940. [cat.# HEE-NC-40001]
00:09:54 Photograph of a U.S. Gemini VII satellite in orbit during docking experiments in Dec. 1965; Edgerton’s strobe beacons can be seen along the wider section. [cat. # HEE-SC-06826]
00:10:11 Photograph of the lamp at the Graves Lighthouse in Boston Harbor Lighthouse, 1964. [cat.# HEE-SC-06299]
00:10:32 Photograph of Edgerton and another man looking at a lighthouse lamp at the Cape Henry Lighthouse, during shakedown tests before installation. [cat.# HEE-SC-07649] [see also Fig. 12:23 in Edgerton’s 1987 book “Electronic Flash, Strobe” ]
00:10:46 Film ends.
00:10:56 © 2010 MIT credits.

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