Marey, Etienne-Jules

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b. 5 March 1830 Beaune, France
d. 15 May 1904 Paris, France
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French physiologist and pioneer of chronophotography.
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At the age of 19 Marey went to Paris to study medicine, becoming particularly interested in the problems of the circulation of the blood. In an early communication to the Académie des Sciences he described a much improved device for recording the pulse, the sphygmograph, in which the beats were recorded on a smoked plate. Most of his subsequent work was concerned with methods of recording movement: to study the movement of the horse, he used pneumatic sensors on each hoof to record traces on a smoked drum; this device became known as the Marey recording tambour. His attempts to study the wing movements of a bird in flight in the same way met with limited success since the recording system interfered with free movement. Reading in 1878 of Muybridge's work in America using sequence photography to study animal movement, Marey considered the use of photography himself. In 1882 he developed an idea first used by the astronomer Janssen: a camera in which a series of exposures could be made on a circular photographic plate. Marey's "photographic gun" was rifle shaped and could expose twelve pictures in approximately one second on a circular plate. With this device he was able to study wing movements of birds in free flight. The camera was limited in that it could record only a small number of images, and in the summer of 1882 he developed a new camera, when the French government gave him a grant to set up a physiological research station on land provided by the Parisian authorities near the Porte d'Auteuil. The new design used a fixed plate, on which a series of images were recorded through a rotating shutter. Looking rather like the results provided by a modern stroboscope flash device, the images were partially superimposed if the subject was slow moving, or separated if it was fast. His human subjects were dressed all in white and moved against a black background. An alternative was to dress the subject in black, with highly reflective strips and points along limbs and at joints, to produce a graphic record of the relationships of the parts of the body during action. A one-second-sweep timing clock was included in the scene to enable the precise interval between exposures to be assessed. The fixed-plate cameras were used with considerable success, but the number of individual records on each plate was still limited. With the appearance of Eastman's Kodak roll-film camera in France in September 1888, Marey designed a new camera to use the long rolls of paper film. He described the new apparatus to the Académie des Sciences on 8 October 1888, and three weeks later showed a band of images taken with it at the rate of 20 per second. This camera and its subsequent improvements were the first true cinematographic cameras. The arrival of Eastman's celluloid film late in 1889 made Marey's camera even more practical, and for over a decade the Physiological Research Station made hundreds of sequence studies of animals and humans in motion, at rates of up to 100 pictures per second. Marey pioneered the scientific study of movement using film cameras, introducing techniques of time-lapse, frame-by-frame and slow-motion analysis, macro-and micro-cinematography, superimposed timing clocks, studies of airflow using smoke streams, and other methods still in use in the 1990s. Appointed Professor of Natural History at the Collège de France in 1870, he headed the Institut Marey founded in 1898 to continue these studies. After Marey's death in 1904, the research continued under the direction of his associate Lucien Bull, who developed many new techniques, notably ultra-high-speed cinematography.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Foreign member of the Royal Society 1898. President, Académie des Sciences 1895.
Bibliography
1860–1904, Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences de Paris.
1873, La Machine animale, Paris 1874, Animal Mechanism, London.
1893, Die Chronophotographie, Berlin. 1894, Le Mouvement, Paris.
1895, Movement, London.
1899, La Chronophotographie, Paris.
Further Reading
1905, Travaux de l'Association de l'Institut Marey, Paris. Brian Coe, 1981, History of Movie Photography, London.
——1992, Muybridge and the Chronophotographers, London. Jacques Deslandes, 1966, Histoire comparée du cinéma, Vol. I, Paris.
BC / MG

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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