Photo of Edwin H. Land

Edwin H. Land

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Electronics

For the invention, development and marketing of instant photography.

Edwin Land’s most famous invention came as an answer to a young child’s question in 1943. Why, his daughter wondered, must she wait so long to see the photographs he had snapped. Thus began the scientist’s quest for instant photography.

Land, founder of the Polaroid Corp., quickly put his company’s years of research, chemicals and development to work to solve the problem. Less than five years later he had invented instant photography and the cameras were an instant hit. Over the ensuing decades, Polaroid would refine its cameras, adding color photos in 1963.

Under Land, Polaroid was among the first technically innovative companies — as much a research company as a manufacturing company, he said.

Born in Norwich, Conn., Land twice left his studies at Harvard University to research the ideas that brought Polaroid world-wide acclaim. He later received an honorary doctorate in science from the university.

Land held 533 patents at his death in 1991 and was honored with the National Medal of Science in 1967 and the National Medal of Technology in 1988.

He also founded the Rowland Institute for Science, a research organization in Cambridge, Mass., in 1980.