Photo of Harold E. Edgerton

Harold E. Edgerton

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Electronics

For the invention of the electronic stroboscopic flash and for finding a multitude of applications for it within science, technology and industry.

Harold “Doc’’ Edgerton was a scientist. But to much of the world, he’s more recognizable for the art he created.

Edgerton, who held a doctorate in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invented the stroboscopic flash, better known as the electronic flash, in 1931. The flash enabled Edgerton to take stop-action photographs.

To market his products, Edgerton took photographs that became as much works of art as examples of his science. Photos of bullets passing through apples or cutting a playing card in half were no longer impossible. His photograph of a drop of milk, “Milk Drop Coronet,’’ showed a crown splashing from the drop and was part of a 1937 photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Edgerton was an advisor to the Army Air Forces in World War II, lending his expertise to nighttime aerial reconnaissance. After the war, he continued his research and expanded into underwater photography and sonar.

He had a long-time working relationship with famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, and joined in an expedition in the 1970s to try to find the Loch Ness monster.

By Robert Warren