Arthur Mason Worthington
Worthington was a British physicist and educator, renowned for his work on fluid mechanics, especially the physics of drops and splashes for observing and documenting of which he pioneered ways and techniques of high speed photography. Intrigued by the shapes and formations of accidental ink drops that had previously been reported by a schoolboy at Rugby to the Rugby Natural Society some twenty years earlier and many such frequent footprints, led A.M. Worthington to believe that the nature of the motion of the drop must be conjectural. His elaborate set up to experiment about the nature of such phenomenon is well explained in his own words in his book – The Splash of a Drop, the link to which is in the bibliography for whoever wants to read the book. Some of his work below, taken directly from his book, will give you an idea of how thoroughly he researched and experimented on this subject.
The above experiments were conducted by building an apparatus that ensured that the size, volume and duration of each drop of water, milk or mercury was regulated. It also triggered a light flash to illuminate these drops at the correct time in order to record these photographs.
An engineer, educator, explorer, entrepreneur and a visionary, Edgerton was also a revolutionary photographer who forever changed the medium when he developed the first electronic flash or stroboscopic light in 1931, that made possible to see motions in segments unseen by human eye till now. Numerous experiments of his work, which he did in order to make it relatable to the lay person, he made action stop-motion images of machines, animals, and sportsmen to demonstrate what his invention could do (Rosen, 2020)
Edgerton’s experimentation started as a graduate student of MIT in 1926 with flash tubes filled with xenon gas capable of producing high-intensity bursts of light as short as 1/1/1,000,000 second. With this invention he produced photographs of action of milk drops falling into a saucer, a tennis racket hitting a ball, and bullets hitting a steel plate or traveling at speeds of up to 2,800 feet (853 metres) per second. Besides their scientific value, these images were aesthetically beautiful as well. His image, Milk Drop Coronet, was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential photographs of all time (Britannica, 2020).
“The picture proved that photography could advance human understanding of the physical world, and the technology Edgerton used to take it laud the foundation for the modern electronic flash.”(Time, 2020)
Edgerton explored diverse uses for his new invention, constructing stroboscopic units to record night operations of army troops during the World War II, photographing nuclear test explosions, photographing sea life at great depths (Britannica, 2020).
Even though he always downplayed his achievements by saying that “Don’t make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer. I am after the facts, only the facts,” his remarkable contribution to the world of photography cannot be denied. His work reveals the capability of slicing motion and showcasing it in a manner that is far beyond our perception and could not have been possible without these inventions.
Key points and learnings-
- Follow up on your ideas till they become a reality
- Never give up
Fig 1-8 Worthington, A. (1895) The Splash Of A Drop : Worthington, A. M. (Arthur Mason), 1852-1916 : Free Download, Borrow, And Streaming : Internet Archive. At: https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/n9/mode/2up (Accessed 6/07/2020).
Worthington, A. (2012) A Study Of Splashes. [ebook] Project Gutenberg. At: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/39831 (Accessed 6/07/2020).
Worthington, A.( 2008) The Project Gutenberg Ebook Of The Splash Of A Drop, By A.M. Worthington.. At: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/27125/27125-h/27125-h.htm (Accessed 6/07/2020).
Worthington, A. (1895) The Splash Of A Drop : Worthington, A. M. (Arthur Mason), 1852-1916 : Free Download, Borrow, And Streaming : Internet Archive. At: https://archive.org/details/splashofdrop00wortuoft/page/n9/mode/2up (Accessed 6/07/2020).
Fig 1 Edgerton, H. (1938) Falling drop of milk, 1938, Harold Edgerton © The Harold E. Edgerton 1992 Trust, courtesy of Palm Press, Inc. [Photograph] At: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harold-Edgerton (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Fig 2 Edgerton, H. (1957) Milk Drop Coronet, 1957, Harold Edgerton [Photograph] At: http://100photos.time.com/photos/harold-edgerton-milk-drop (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Fig 3 Edgerton, H. (1964) Bullet Through Apple, Harold Edgerton: The Man Who Froze Time|Bbc.com. At: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140722-the-man-who-froze-the-world (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Fig 4-14 Edgerton, H. [Photographs] At: http://100photos.time.com/photos/harold-edgerton-milk-drop (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Dowling, S., 2014. Harold Edgerton: The Man Who Froze Time. [online] Bbc.com. At: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20140722-the-man-who-froze-the-world (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2020) Harold Edgerton | American Electrical Engineer And Photographer. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harold-Edgerton (Accessed 15/07/2020).
Rosen, M. (2020) Seeing The Unseen In The Groundbreaking Work Of Harold Edgerton – Feature Shoot. At: https://www.featureshoot.com/2019/12/seeing-the-unseen-in-the-groundbreaking-work-of-harold-edgerton/ (Accessed 14/07/2020).