Eadweard Muybridge was born in Kingston on Thames in 1830 - at which point he bore the somewhat duller name of Edward James Muggeridge.
At the age of 22 he left England for America to seek his fame and fortune. He first worked in New York as a bookbinder's agent and then moved on to San Francisco where his interest in photography bloomed. Using a mobile darkroom that was christened The Flying Studio, he produced stunning stereoscopic views and also beautiful landscapes, such as this one from within a volcano…
But the greater fame that Muybridge desired was found when he came to be hired by the railroad baron, Leland Stanford, a passionate racing horse breeder who commissioned the photographer to solve the age old argument as to the whether or not a running horse ever lifts all of its four feet from the ground - and Muybridge was to prove that it did!
The ingenius method that Muybridge used was to set up several cameras, each one with its shutter attached to a thread. As the horse then passed by and broke each thread an instant exposure was produced.
The public were amazed to see the results, and Muybridge went on to develop his art, producing a substantial body of work which was published into books entitled Animal Locomotion and The Human Figure in Motion.
Muybridge's study of wrestlers
Francis Bacon's 'Two Fighters'
Such systematic studies of the science of animal motion went on to inspire Francis Bacon, as seen in the painting above. But in his own time Muybridge's work also inspired early film makers - many of whom would have been aware of his development of the Zoopraxiscope.
This involved printing a series of images onto a circular base which was then made to spin around so as to give the illusion of movement. In other words, animation. What led on to the art of moving film.
A Zoopraxiscope - click here to see the couple dancing
Such a sweet and romantic picture can be seen in the images above. But, Muybridge's own private life was beset by violence and tragedy.