Collage Created by Ed Supovitz
Edwin H. Land

American Jewish Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame


Edwin H. Land: Inducted
into the National Inventors
Hall of Fame-1977

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Edwin Herbert Land was an America Jewish inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in 1977, for his photographic product comprising a reputable container carrying a photographic processing liquid for photography.

He was born on May 7, 1909, in Bridgeport Connecticut. His parents, Helen and Harry Land owned a scrap metal yard. His father was born in Russia where Tsar Alexander III carried on a reign of terror against the Jews in 1881 to 1894. His grandfather Abraham, grandmother Ella, father and his two brothers left Odessa, Russia, and came to the United States. The custom inspectors had Americanized their names and Land became their last name.

Edwin Land attended the Norwich Free Academy at Norwich, Connecticut, a semi-private school. He graduated in 1927 and went to Harvard. He studied chemistry and after his freshman year, he left to go to New York City.

He invented the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light, Polaroid film. In 1932, he and his physics instructor at Harvard, established the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories to commercialize his polarizing technology. Wheelwright’s family were wealthy and agreed to fund the company.

In world War II, land worked on military projects which included developing dark-adaptation goggles, target finders, first passively guided smart bombs and a special stereoscopic viewing system called the Vectrograph which revealed camouflaged enemy positions in ariel photography

On February 21, 1947, he demonstrated an instant camera, named Land Camera, with its film. It was an instant success.

Land tried to market Polarvision, an instant movie system. It was unsuccessful and a financial disaster. He resigned as chairman of Polaroid on March 6, 1980.

HONORS AND DISTINCTIONS

Cresson Medal, Franklin Institute, 1937
National Modern Pioneer Award, National Association of Manufacturers, 1940
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1943; and president 1951-53
Rumford Medal, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1945
Holley Medal, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1948
Duddell Medal, Physical Society of Great Britain, 1949
National Academy of Sciences, 1953
Potts Medal, Franklin Institute, 1956
American Philosophical Society, 1957
Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers, 1957
Doctor of Science degree, Harvard University, 1957
Member, President's Science Advisory Committee, 1957-59; consultant-at-large 1960-73.
Member, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, 1961-77
Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, Honorary Fellow, 1958
Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1963
National Academy of Engineering, 1965
Albert A. Michelson Award, 1966
William James Lecturer on Psychology, Harvard University, 1966-67
Frederic Ives Medal, Optical Society of America, 1967
National Medal of Science, 1967
Founders Medal, National Academy of Engineering, 1972
Optical Society of America, Honorary Member, 1972
The Royal Institution of Great Britain, 1975
National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1977
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Honorary Member, 1980
The Royal Society, foreign member, 1986
William O. Baker Medal of Achievement, Security Affairs Support Association, 1988
National Medal of Technology, 1988

Edwin Land had 535 patents and he had received many honorary degrees from many universities. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a U.S. citizen, in 1963.

In 1929, Edwin Land married Helen (Terre) Maislen, of Hartford, Connecticut. They had two daughters. Jennifer and Valerie. Edwin Herbert Land died on March 1, 1991, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


For additional information, contact
Special Collections and Archives
S.E. Wimberly Library


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