Harold Eugene Edgerton

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Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton (April 6, 1903 – January 4, 1990) was a professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is largely credited with transforming the stroboscope from an obscure laboratory instrument into a common device.



Early years

He was born in Fremont, Nebraska on April 6, 1903, the son of Mary Nettie Coe and Frank Eugene Edgerton,[1][2] a direct descendant of Richard Edgerton, one of the founders of Norwich, Connecticut and a descendent of Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower. His father was a lawyer, journalist, author and orator and served as the assistant attorney general of Nebraska from 1911 to 1915. Harold grew up in Aurora, Nebraska. He also spent some of his childhood years in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln, Nebraska.


In 1925 he received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where he became a member of Acacia Fraternity.[3] He earned an S.M. in electrical engineering from MIT in 1927. Edgerton used stroboscopes to study synchronous motors for his Sc.D. thesis in electrical engineering at MIT, awarded in 1931. He credited Charles Stark Draper with inspiring him to point stroboscopes at everyday objects: the first was a stream of water coming out of a faucet.


In 1937 he began a lifelong association with photographer Gjon Mili, who used stroboscopic equipment, particularly a "multiflash" strobe light, to produce strikingly beautiful photographs, many of which appeared in Life Magazine. This strobe light could flash up to 120 times a second. Edgerton was a pioneer in strobe photography, subsequently using the technique to capture images of balloons during their bursting, a bullet during its impact with an apple, or tracking of a devil stick motion, as only a few examples. He was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Photographic Society in 1934, the Howard N. Potts Medal in 1941, the Albert A. Michelson Award in 1969, and the National Medal of Science in 1973.[4]

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