Synopses & Reviews
The photographs of Eadweard Muybridge are immediately familiar to us. Less familiar is the dramatic personal story of this seminal and wonderfully eccentric Victorian pioneer, now brought to life for the first time in this engaging and thoroughly entertaining biography.
His work is iconic: the first icons of the modern visual age. Men, women, boxers, wrestlers, racehorses, elephants and camels frozen in time, captured in the act of moving, fighting, galloping, living. Scarcely a day goes by without their derivate use somewhere in today's media. And if most of us have seen Muybridge's distinctive stop-motion photographs, all of us have seen the fruit of his extraordinary technological innovation: today's cinema and television.
But it is his personal life that possesses all the ingredients of a classic non-fiction best-seller: a passionately driven man struggling against the odds; dire treachery and shocking betrayal; a cast of larger-than-life characters set against a backdrop of San Francisco and the Far West in its most turbulent and dangerous era; a profusion of scientific and artistic advances and discoveries, one hotly following on another; the nervous intensity of two spectacular courtroom dramas (one pitting Muybridge against the richest man in the land and staring ruin in the face, the other sees him fighting for his life). And for the opening act, a foul murder on a dark and stormy night.
Skillfully articulating the fascinating history of a now ubiquitous technology, author Brian Clegg combines ingredients from science and biography to create an eminently readable, fast-paced, and surprising story.
"Eadweard Muybridge 'stopped time,' according to science journalist Clegg, by training a dozen cameras on a trotting horse, to show its movement as no painter ever had. While devising this system of sequential photography, Muybridge realized he could animate the horse's movements by reassembling the negatives. Having made his name as a pioneering photographer of Yosemite and Alaska, he made his historical mark by devising an innovative system of recording and showing motion pictures. Despite his flawed technology, it was Muybridge who opened the first movie house at the 1892 Chicago World's Fair, and his concept inspired the process used today. But Muybridge's engineering successes were tempered by tension in his personal relationships, Clegg shows. He alienated his patron Leland Stanford and spent years trying to drum up the massive financial backing he'd taken for granted. He also lived the second half of his life as a murderer, having shot his wife's lover, yet winning acquittal after arguing for his own insanity. Working with sometimes contradictory evidence like newspaper clippings, court records and personal letters, Clegg holds his readers' attention by filling in gaps in historical data with careful suppositions." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The photographs of Eadweard Muybridge are immediately familiar to most. Less familiar is the dramatic personal story of this seminal and wonderfully eccentric Victorian pioneer, now brought to life for the first time in this engaging and thoroughly entertaining biography.
About the Author
Brian Clegg is the author of A Brief History of Infinity, The First Scientist: A Life of Roger Bacon, and Light Years: The Extraordinary Story of Mankind's Fascination with Light. He holds a physics degree from Cambridge and has written regular columns, features, and reviews for numerous magazines. His books have been translated into ten languages. He lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and two children.