Images of Discovery: Communicating Science through Photography

Through January 10, 2017

While working at MIT, photographers, image makers, and innovators Felice Frankel, Harold “Doc” Edgerton, and Berenice Abbott explored a range of scientific questions. With strobes, magnification, and other light-capturing strategies, their work reveals their curiosity about the natural world and how it works. Learn how photography helps us examine the unknown and explore the inventive methodologies used by these three pioneers at hands-on image-making stations.

From swinging wrenches to soap bubbles, the work and its subject matter showcase each photographer’s curiosity and dedication to making the natural and the technological world more accessible. Images of Discovery is an exciting opportunity for visitors to experience photography as a tool for communicating about — and inspiring a passion for — science and technology.

Harold “Doc” Edgerton was named MIT Institute Professor in 1966 after a career as an inventor, photographer, and professor of electrical engineering at MIT. His many achievements in the field of stroboscopy were applied to a range of fields from the military to archeology to underwater exploration.

Image-making stations

  • Capture a water drop as it falls. This technique resulted in Edgerton’s iconic “milk drop” image.
  • Use one of the objects provided to “see the unseen” by filming with a high-speed video camera.

Berenice Abbott is best known as a 20th-century documentary photographer, but she spent several years at MIT in the late 1950s creating imagery for a new physics curriculum meant to deepen and strengthen American scientific knowledge. Her images documented principles of physical science, while her innovative techniques advanced the field of photography.

Image-making stations

  • Use a strobe light and an iPad camera to photograph a bouncing ball.
  • Make images of waves using a simple ripple tank.

Felice Frankel is a science photographer and a research scientist in the MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering. She regularly collaborates with scientists and engineers to promote the public understanding of science through visual expression. Her work is featured in books, films, websites, and in print.

Image-making stations

  • Using magnets and an iPad camera, photograph Ferrofluid, a special material that acts like both a liquid and a magnetic solid.
  • Use a zoom scanner to capture the hidden aspects of everyday objects.