75 years of Innovators: Edwin Land

Jan. 8, 2004
American scientist and inventor Edwin Land created instant Polaroid photography, inexpensive filters for polarizing light, and advanced theories of color vision.

In the 75 years since Machine Design began publication, here are some of the people who have changed the way we live.

Edwin Land
Inventor of instant photography
1909-1991

In 1937, he established Polaroid Corp. to further develop and produce sheet polarizers. These polarizers were initially used for sunglasses and science, but have since found other applications including as major components of LCDs.

In 1947, Land developed an instant-image camera and film called the Automatic 100 Land camera. In 1976, Polaroid Corp. filed suit against Kodak Corp. for infringement of 12 Polaroid patents relating to instant photography. Seven Polaroid patents eventually were found to be valid and infringed. Kodak was out of the instant picture market, leaving customers with useless cameras and no film.

Land also helped design the optics of the Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the 1950s. In the early 1970s, he attempted to explain the previously known phenomenon of color constancy with his retinex theory of color vision. His early demonstrations of color constancy raised much interest, but his failure to cite earlier work on the concept led to nothing but criticism. On a side note, Edwin Land graced the cover of the June 26, 1972 issue of Time Magazine.

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