The ability to capture prized moments on film is a gratifying, and often taken for granted, pleasure.
That ability can be arguably traced to Edwin Herbert Land, a Jewish American inventor who brought photography bliss to millions with his creation of the Polaroid Corporation.
Land was born in Connecticut in 1909 to Ukrainian Jewish parents.
He later studied chemistry at Harvard, but left school to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions in New York City.
Once in the city, he invented the first inexpensive filters able to polarize light, calling the product Polaroid film.
Having no actual doctorate or laboratory to pursue his invention, he worked out of various labs in the city and used the public library as his source for further research.
Of course, over time, Land’s creation blossomed, eventually turning into the Polaroid Corporation. And on February 21, 1947, Land made his first public demonstration of his camera, called the Land Camera, which would transition into the Polaroid Camera.
It was an instant success, the first 57 put on sale selling out in one day.
Land never lost his thirst for research, however, maintaining a self implied rule that he conduct at least one experiment per day. The regiment led to many individuals, even several publications, referring to him as “Dr. Land.”
In his later years, Land and his crew helped design optics for the Lockhead U-2 spy plane and he became a leader in the field of color instant photography. In 1957, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard. Steve Jobs would later call Land one of his personal inspirations.
Elkan Blout, a close colleague of Edwin Land at Polaroid, later wrote about his friend: “What was Land like? Knowing him was a unique experience. He was a true visionary; he saw things differently from other people, which is what led him to the idea of instant photography. He was a brilliant, driven man who did not spare himself and who enjoyed working with equally driven people.”
Land died on March 1, 1991 at the age of 81.