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Innovators through history: Eadweard Muybridge

To mark the launch of the NZ Innovators Awards for 2012, we're celebrating a series of vaunted innovators and inventors throughout time.

Eadweard Muybridge

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Who: Eadweard Muybridge

What: The “Zoopraxiscope”, popularly known as the world’s first film projector. It projected images from glass disks that were rotated quickly, giving the impression of motion.

When: 1879

Impact: Originally invented to answer the hotly-debated topic of the time (are all four of a horse’s hooves ever off the ground while trotting?), the Zoopraxiscope would eventually form the basis for modern film projection and exhibition, said to have inspired Thomas Edison’s later invention of the Kinetoscope.

Power, Fame and Money: Aside from acclaim for his inventions and photographs, Muybridge also gained notoriety for his marriage to 21-year-old divorcee Flora Stone, an involvement which led to his trial for murder after he shot a man he suspected of having an affair with his wife. Muybridge was acquitted on the grounds of “justifiable homicide”.

Legacy: Despite this dubious episode, Muybridge went on to leave a lasting impression even after his death in 1904. He has inspired a documentary, a play, and an opera, among other things. Bands such as U2 and The Crystal Method have paid tribute to Muybridge’s techniques in their music videos, and animators today still use Muybridge’s photos as reference for drawing characters in motion. And in perhaps the ultimate accolade, Google honoured Muybridge on April 9 with a Google Doodle animation based on his photos of the “horse in motion”.

Got a new idea that’s sure to knock everyone’s socks off? Enter yourself or a friend into the 2012 NZ Innovators Awards