Muybridge’s Running Horse


Edward Muybridge

Edward Muybridge (1830-1904), a British born photographer, happens to be an unavoidable pioneer down the line, while tracing the history of Cinema. Today he is remembered for his contributory works on the studies of motion and in motion picture projection. As a young man he migrated to United States in 1855. To win his bread he chose being a publisher’s agent and a book seller. However his passion for photography remained mute till 1868. Later the photographer in him came out, and started to click. Soon he earned a name among public for his nature photography. Sooner he became a notable personality, that the US Army commissioned him officially to photograph, the Modoc war in 1873.

Leland Stanford

Leland Stanford

In 1872 the former Governor of California Leland Stanford (Stanford University is named after him.) who was also a race horse owner hired Muybridge for the photographic study of movement of Horses. In particular he wanted to understand the movement of horse’s legs during a gallop. The question of the day was whether the horses lift all the legs during the motion, or do they have one of their limbs for balance. The movement was so swift that a naked eye could not follow the movement of the limbs.  His exceptional work proved that the horses are airborne during the trot. Though the original negative is extinct today the earlier images still exists. Reputed scientific journal, Scientific American has published his works. A recent note about it could be read in the link you find below.


Later with the Advent of GIF technology we can see the animated image of his racing horse photograph in Wikipedia.

Muybridge stayed back in Stanford and it became his research ground, where he made hundreds and thousands of images studying the motion of humans and animals. Mostly they were scientific photography. Time- Lapse technique was used by him at that time itself. His photographs threw light in understanding and documenting human and animal motions.


In the last quarter of the 19 century witnessed a feverish rush, hovering in all of Europe and America to invent an instrument for film projection. Also many were working madly, chasing their dreams to become the foremost inventor of the motion pictures. It wasn’t much on the interest to enter into the pages of history, but rather it meant business. Everyone who worked for it knew that show business would be a diamond hatching duck. There were too many contributions at that time, one after the other, each dreamed of dominating the market.

Muybridge also finds himself in this queue, with his Zoopraxiscope. Other works worth mentioning, during this time line are the Edison’s ‘Kinetoscope’, exhibited to the public in 1893 and the Lumiere’s   ‘Cinematographe’. The Lumiere brothers, Auguste Lumiere and Louis Lumiere, were one of the iconic personalities worth considering as the architects of Motion picture or Cinema.

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