Biography of Edwin Land

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews & Shows' started by keithwms, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Coincident to recent events, I have been reading a fascinating biography of Dr. Edwin Land, written by Victor McElheny.

    The title of the biography is "Insisting on the Impossible" - and it could be said that McElheny did just that by researching this book. Ironically, it seems that our subject, who devoted his life to recording fleeting moments, had no interest in having his history written. Land instructed an assistant to destroy all of his personal notes upon his death.

    So, it is through careful research that McElheny serves a wonderful glimpse into the life and times of one of America's most inventive minds.

    The book is written with sufficient technical and historical detail to engage any level of photographer, scientist or armchair inventor, while also providing real insight into Land's upbringing, motivation, personal life, and creativity. There is much more to Land's story than Polaroid.

    Particularly now, when one sometimes feels that there is no more place for originality at the junction of art and science, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and invigorating read.

    P.S. Sorry, but please do not ask me to loan the book out, I am going to force it upon some of my students over the coming months. It contains many valuable lessons for students of any age.
     
  2. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Copies of it can be purchased online for about $1.00 plus shipping.
     
  3. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    It's a good book, very inspiring.
    At a buck, it's quite the bargain.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It would be a very interesting read, who's the publisher.

    Many years ago Edwin land wrote and talked about the future of photography, predicting accurately the hybrid interface between digital and conventional imaging which we have today.

    Ian
     
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  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Thanks Keith, like Steve I've ordered a copy via Amazon UK, the book should make good reading next-time I'm back in the UK.

    Ian
     
  7. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Thanks for the hint.

    I have got another one: Olshaker "The Polaroid Story"

    But does anyone know where to find the complete text of his `Retinax Theory┬┤?
     
  8. Struan Gray

    Struan Gray Member

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    AgX: a quick list:

    Land, E. (1959) Color Vision and the Natural Image. Part I PNAS vol 45, pp 115-129

    Land, E. (1959) Color Vision and the Natural Image. Part II PNAS vol 45, pp 636-644

    Land, E. & McCann, J. (1971) Lighness and Retinex Theory JOSA vol 61(1), pp 1-11

    McCann, J. Benton, J. & McKee, S. (2004) Red-white projections and rod/long-wave cone color: an annotated bibliography J Electr Imaging vol 31(1), pp 8-14

    Brainard, D. & Wandell, B. (1986) Analysis of the retinex theory of color vision J Opt Soc Am A vol 3(10), pp 1651-1661 6Hurvich, L. & Jameson, D. (1955) Some quantitative aspects of an opponent-colors theory. II. J Opt Soc Am vol 45, pp 602+


    For a more popular account there are the two Scientific American articles Land wrote about the Retinex experiements:

    Edwin H. Land, "Experiments in Color Vision," Scientific American, Vol. 200, No. 5, pp. 84-99, May 1959.

    Edwin H. Land, "The Retinex Theory of Color Vision," Scientific American, Vol. 237, No. 6, pp. 108-128, December 1977.


    JOSA: Journal of the Optical Society of America
    PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (of the United States of America)
     
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  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I can supply the academic papers as pdfs to other academics, but sorry, I can't post them in open forum. Anyway, very interesting stuff. "Dr. Land" is sadly missed. His ideas will continue to influence us for a very long time.

    Sorry Ian, I don't recall offhand and the book is at home, but you can search for it online.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I met Dr. Land on one occasion, at a reception at one of his last talks. I got to speak with him for a few minutes, as I was also a speaker at that particular conference and he expressed an interest in my subject. From reputation of those who knew or worked with him, he was a rather stuffy person who set up no management to take over from him at his demise or if he was incapacitated. He brooked no dissention from his ideas and he was rather strict and no-nonsense. Of course, he was most often right, and that helped foster both his attitude and the perception of others.

    This sounds a bit like C. E. K. Mees at Kodak, but not George Eastman. Eastman set up a full management team to run the company upon his death or incapacitation, even before he knew of his illness. Mees was strict and authoritarian and also a great inventor, but he did set up a complete management team under him.

    Much of the problems at Polaroid may stem from the fact that it was pretty much a one-man-band so to speak. There was no management but Land.

    IDK for sure, but that is what I gather from stories inside the industry.

    PE
     
  11. Mr Bill

    Mr Bill Member

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    Not a biography, but a 3-volume set of "essays" was published by the IS&T (formerly SPSE) about 20 years ago, apparently at the suggestion of John McCann, and with encouragement from Mrs Land. (This is the McCann in one of Struan's citations.) The set of essays seems to be still available.

    McCann, who managed Polaroid's Vision Research Laboratory from 1961 to 1996 (as per a bio), is still active in IS&T's Color Imaging Conferences. As are retinex models in various technical papers.

    Regarding the essays, here's a blurb from IS&T:

    "Edwin H. Land's Essays is an unique compilation of 76 essays presenting for the first time in a singular collection the major "themes of Land's life-long preoccupation with science, invention, education, industry and humanity" (Jerome Wiesner, President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Included with the articles that appeared in 35 books and journals are 16 heretofore unpublished essays and lectures along with Land's testimony before the Senate Military Affairs Committee at the Joint Hearings on Science Bills in 1945. "
     
  12. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Actually, I just found that I have put this volume on my wish-list before...

    Just forgot about it....

    ISBN / ISSN: 0-89208-170-8 590
    2nd ed. 1997
    590 pages
     
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