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Four things I did not know about Edweard Muybridge

Y’all know Edweard Muybridge, right? He settled a very old argument and kind of fathered the moving picture in the process.

Horsey folk had argued for ages whether a running horse ever had all four hooves off the ground at once. Muybridge was a well-known photographer in California when Leland Stanford (former governor, race horse owner and founder of Stanford University) hired him to answer the question. Took him years to work it out, but Muybridge eventually wired a bunch of cameras along a track with tripwires, ran a horse down it and got the answer.

Which was: everybody was wrong. People in the NO camp believed a horse always had at least one hoof on the ground. People in the YES camp thought they were all four off the ground, with the front legs aiming frontwards and the back legs aiming backwards. Like a rocking horse. Whee! Turns out…well, look at the picture.

Muybridge went on to take upwards of 100,000 photos of people and animals in motion. Which is, to this day, a cherished reference for animators and illustrators. Lumme some Muybridge!

So anyhow, I was looking up the date of that first definitive horse series (1877) and I discovered four things about him I did not know before.

He was English. Born in Southwest London in 1830. He moved to the States in his mid-twenties. He was born Edward Muggeridge, but apparently decided his name needed a little weirding up. Which explains why you’ve never heard of an Edweard or a Muybridge before (unless you have, in which case — do tell!). He got some nasty head injuries in stagecoach accident in San Fran, which may have left him a little…cracked.

Also, he killed a guy and got away with it. He discovered his wife had taken a lover — a certain Major Larkyns — tracked him down, said “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife” — whipped out a gun and BANG. Shot him dead.

His insanity plea (on account of his brain damage) was rejected, but it was ruled a justifiable homicide anyway. On account of, diddling other men’s wives was considered really unacceptable then.

Oh, a fifth and final thing — he then dropped his son off at an orphanage, assuming him to be Larkyn’s boy. Poor bastard grew up to look just like Muybridge.

Good weekend, folks!

February 24, 2012 — 11:14 pm
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