7 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Inventor of Polaroid

Posted in Polaroid
488 words
Estimated reading time: 2 min read

Edwin Land’s journey that resulted with the historical invention of Polaroid Instant Camera started purely out of love. His, then, 3 year old daughter Jennifer asked him a very simple question while they were enjoying their family vacation. When he took a photo of her, she asked him “Why can’t I see the picture now?”

In 1960, Edwin Land approached the Henry Dreyfuss design company to collaborate with him on a camera design, for he was more of an inventor than designer and businessman. As the result they got Automatic 100 Land Camera and the Polaroid Swinger camera in late 1965. The black and white Swinger camera sold for under $20 and created a craze among the lovers of photography, but also among the regular people who weren’t so much into photography until that product.

Although the history of Polaroid is turbulent, there’s still hope for it. In 2008 the company announced it would stop making its patented film. However, Austrian devotee formed the Impossible Project and raised funds to develop monochromatic and color film for use with Polaroid instant cameras, ensuring that the art of Polaroid remains alive.

Late Steve Jobs, the icon of our culture and founder of Apple recognized Land as an inspiration, for he was more of an entrepreneur and idea maker rather than a businessman. Land believed that “every significant invention must come to a world that is not prepared for it”.

Edwin Land studied chemistry on Harvard but after he finished his freshman year at the age of 17, he left the school and went to New York City instead. It was in New York City that he invented the first cheap filters that had the ability to polarize light; the Polaroid film. He didn’t have the tools necessary for the project and research so he used a rather risky trick – he sneaked into the Columbia University laboratories during late at night, so he could use their lab equipment. After he developed that polarizing film, he went back to Harvard University but never finished his studies nor get his degree.

Land was very passionate with his work – during his active years in Polaroid Corporation he never stopped creating and inventing new things or coming up with fresh ideas. When he was in front of a problem he wouldn’t stop experimenting and brainstorming until he had a working solution. Needles to say it sometimes took days and weeks to resolve the problem, and sometimes he would even forget to eat if food wasn’t brought to him and he was reminded to eat. He had teams of assistants who took shifts in working with him.

Edwin Land died on March 1st, 1991 in Cambridge, MA. He lived to the old age of 81 and upon his death his personal assistant got rid of all his personal papers and all of his notes, by his personal wish. His was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.