Edwin H. Land
The founder of the Polaroid Corp. and one of the most celebrated inventors of the Twentieth Century, Edwin Land was also a leader in advancing scientific research and education. He was also a leader in developing technologies for military intelligence, and in promoting and funding civic and philanthropic causes.
The event which gave rise to Land's career was his development during the 1920s of the polarizing sheet, which he introduced in 1932. Less costly and easier to work with than previous refractive or reflective devices, the sheet was transparent plastic whose constituent materials were so oriented that only light waves that vibrate in a particular direction could pass through.
This sheet was tradenamed Polaroid, and in 1937 Land founded Polaroid Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., to develop products based on it. Some of the best-known are sunglasses, window treatments and other anti-reflection screens, and camera filters. In 1948, Polaroid Corp. introduced the camera and special dry film for one-step photography, in which prints developed on the film almost instantly after the picture was snapped.
Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Land attended Harvard University. Between 1947 and 1980, he received 15 honorary doctorates. He served as president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1951 to 1953, was made a foreign member of the Royal Society in 1986, and held many other fellowhips and honorary memberships. He received 54 honorary awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For many years he was a benefactor to scientific research, public tele-vision, education innovation at Harvard and MIT, and community programs in health, the arts, and other fields.