clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Edwin H. Land, inventor of instant photography and founder of Polaroid Corp., died Friday after a long illness. He was 81.

Land, who founded Polaroid in 1937 and the Rowland Institute For Science Inc. in 1980, introduced the first instant camera in 1947, starting the era of 60-second photography.In a familiar anecdote, the idea was said to have struck him on a family vacation when he took a picture of his 3-year-old daughter and she asked why she had to wait to see the picture.

During his tenure at Polaroid, the company introduced instant color photography in 1963 and made a major breakthrough in 1972 with the SX-70 system, which produced a vivid picture outside the camera.

Instant X-rays, Polaroid sunglasses and a 3D movie projector were among the more than 500 patents he collected in his lifetime.

The shy, scholarly Land broke his bonds with the company in 1982, giving up his seat on the board of directors and leaving his post as consulting director of basic research. He continued as honorary chairman.

Land was born in Bridgeport, Conn. He graduated with honors from Norwich Academy and then entered Harvard. As a freshman, he launched his first experiments on ways to polarize light - a process that filters out diffuse light waves that cause glare.

Land served on numerous government and civic bodies, including the President's Science Advisory Committee, the Carnegie Commission on Public Television and the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Some have ranked Land with the likes of Edison. And he was on Life magazine's list of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century.