265 Mass Ave Window Installation

Ongoing

The museum has launched the first in a series of video installations which can be viewed from outside our 265 Massachusetts Avenue location, allowing access to a museum experience while the building remains closed.

These installations will feature work by artists and researchers that integrates art with science, technology, and innovation. Many of the clips and still photography will come from our extensive collection.

Currently on View

Our first installation features the work of Harold “Doc” Edgerton.

Edgerton (1903-1990) was an electrical engineer, inventor, educator, entrepreneur and photographer.  He is noted for his pioneering work in the development of the stroboscope, a 19th century instrument that he made famous through both high-speed photography and scientific research.

Growing up in the Midwest, Edgerton studied electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska.  His first job at General Electric introduced him to the stroboscope and it prompted desire for further study.  He arrived at MIT in 1926, earned master’s and doctoral degrees and beginning in 1928 began a teaching career at MIT which continued until his death at age 86 in 1990.

Edgerton thought the stroboscopes he had used at General Electric were terrible and was certain he could improve them.  As a graduate student, Edgerton experimented with design of equipment that could produce high-intensity bursts of light, which he used to study the motion of electric generators. 

In 1932, he turned his camera toward the sink in his lab, turned on the tap and took photos that immediately captured the imagination of friends and family.  His non-technical photographs and films of milk drops, the swing of a golf club or tennis racket, of birds in flight, and bullets cutting cards and whizzing through fruit became world famous.

At the request of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Edgerton formed a company with two former students—Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier—to develop devices that timed and trigger atomic bomb detonations. To study the efficiency of the explosions, Edgerton and Charles Wycoff developed an ultra-high speed camera called the Rapatronic.  Edgerton did witness and took photographs at many atom and hydrogen bomb tests (although he was not involved in this work during World War II).  This display includes some of the dramatic U.S. government motion picture footage of post-WWII nuclear tests from Edgerton’s collection.

For more on the life and work of Harold Edgerton, please consider the new volume Harold Edgerton: Seeing the Unseen published by Steidl in collaboration with the MIT Museum. Edited by Ron Kurtz, Deborah Douglas and Gus Kayafas, it features contributions by MIT Museum curators, Deborah Douglas and Gary Van Zante. Or visit the Edgerton Digital Collcetions Project website which includes a suggested reading list.