Dr. Edwin H. Land (1909 - 1991)
While not an official biography, the following is reprinted with the kind permission of the Royal Society.
Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, 40, 195-219 (1994).
Elected for Membership Royal Society, 1986
by F.W. Campbell, F.R.S.†
Summary of Achievements
EDWIN H. LAND was distinguished for his inventions and contributions in the fields of polarized light, photography and colour vision. He has had an impact on the lives of many millions of people and has provided large-scale employment in many countries for over five decades. The Polaroid Corporation, which Land founded, may continue to do so for many more. He mastered the art of giving the people what they wanted at a price they could afford. He has had few peers in the advancement and application of natural science to everyday life. Land’s achievements spanned the disciplines of art, science, technology and commerce.
In the field of polarized light, he was responsible for the invention, development and efficient commercial production of the first sheet polarizers, for a sequence of subsequent polarizers, and for the theory and practice of many applications of polarized light. Such devices are widely used today in liquid crystal displays (LCD), in sunglasses and in scientific and medical research. The trade name ‘Polaroid’ has become the accepted generic name for these sheets.
In the field of photography, Land developed the cameras and associated special films that produce almost instantaneous dry pictures directly from the camera. He mastered the complex physicochemical science that gave neutral or coloured, continuous-tone, instantaneous photographs. All of this required a team of first-class scientists and technicians that he led with great success. Novel equipment, using these colour systems, has also been widely exploited, including versions where the colour photograph develops in daylight.