George Eastman

(1854—1932) American inventor and manufacturer of photographic equipment

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US inventor and founder of the modern photographic industry.

With little education, Eastman began work at the age of fourteen as an insurance agent. An ambitious young man with an interest in photography, Eastman was anxious to break into the photographic business in the 1880s. At this time, the wet plate was still in general use, so that taking a photograph was so complex and messy that it was only attractive to expert enthusiasts. The coming of the dry plate in the 1870s eliminated some of the early drawbacks; however, it remained for Eastman to develop the camera and the roll film so that, in the words of his famous slogan, ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’

Eastman's first innovation was to replace the cumbersome glass plate with a transparent flexible film that could be rolled to a new position when needed. By 1884 he was ready to sell his Kodak camera. The name was thought up by Eastman: it had no other significance for him apart from the ‘K’, which was the initial of his mother's maiden name and he thought it was easily pronounced and remembered. In 1889 the original paper film was replaced by celluloid. The early cameras took a hundred snapshots after which the camera itself was sent to the Eastman Company, where the pictures were developed and a reloaded camera returned with the developed photographs. Eastman's camera conquered the world, taking photography to the man in the street. By 1896 he was selling a hundred thousand cameras a year and producing thousands of miles of film. Eastman himself became a man of immense wealth and one of the great philanthropists of his day. To the University of Rochester he gave 54 million dollars and a further 19 million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1932, bored with philanthropy and unable to find any new challenges in his life, Eastman committed suicide.

Subjects: Arts and Humanities — Management and Management Techniques.