Photo of Herbert E. Grier

Herbert E. Grier

  • National Medal of Science
  • Engineering

For his pioneering scientific contributions and his leadership role in ultra-high-speed electronic stroboscopy, electro-optic innovations, national defense, and aerospace sciences.

A student of the famed Harold “Doc” Edgerton, Herbert E. Grier helped pioneer the field of high-speed photography through the development of stroboscopy, a form of photography that has proven its worth far beyond the flashing lights of the catwalk. Stroboscopy, or strobe light photography, effectively froze objects in motion, capturing images that had previously been too quick for the camera.

Grier, Edgerton and another one of his students, Kenneth Germeshausen, initially used stroboscopy to identify problems in high-speed machinery, working as consultants in the 1930s to fix everything from printing presses to machines that made boxes, paper and watches. Stroboscopy was even used to prove that Procter & Gamble’s methods of making soap powder differed from that of Lever Brothers, dismissing a lawsuit between the two giants. From there, the three formed their own company, EG&G, in 1947, and turned their strobe lights on everything from hummingbirds in flight to the nuclear bomb, embedding them in C-47s during WWII and sending them underwater with Jacques Cousteau.

By Lauren Clason