Land, Edwin Herbert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Land, Edwin Herbert

Edwin Herbert Land, 1909–91, American inventor and photographic pioneer. While at Harvard, Land became interested in the properties and manipulation of polarized light. He left Harvard and, in 1932, created Polaroid J Sheet, a polarizing material that was inexpensive and easy to fabricate. In partnership with George Wheelwright, a Harvard physics instructor, Land in 1937 founded the Polaroid Corporation, where he adapted polarized materials for sunglasses, 3-D movies, and military use. In 1947 he demonstrated a single-step photographic process that enabled pictures to be developed in 60 seconds; a color process was marketed in 1963, and a self-developing positive print followed in 1973. In the original Land process, a negative material was exposed inside the camera and then drawn out, while being squeezed against a layer of reagent and a positive material. After 60 (later 10) seconds the layers could be separated and the negative discarded. In the current Polacolor process, light makes a series of latent images on appropriate dye layers of the film sheet; when the picture is ejected from the camera, processing reagent activates the image in these lower layers, which reaches final form after several minutes. The resulting print is protected by a hard plastic film. (See photographic processing.) Holder of more than 500 patents, Land founded the Rowland Institute of Science in 1960 and devoted his time to it after his retirement from Polaroid in 1980.

See biographies by S. McPartland (1993) and V. K. McElheny (1999).

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