Celebrating the art, science and history of photography, World Photography Day takes place each year on Aug. 18, as people across the globe are encouraged to share photos that represent their everyday lives.
At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we induct and honor the world’s most impactful innovators — some of whom have played essential roles in the development of photography technology. Read below to learn more about a few of these inventors who have helped both revolutionize and transform the medium into one of the most popular forms of expression.
- Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes
NIHF Inductees Leopold Godowsky and Leopold Mannes met as teenagers, and their love of photography led them on a journey to discover a way to take color photographs. For 14 years the two worked in their kitchens and bathrooms, often in darkness, and measured film developing times by whistling the last movement of Brahms’ “C-minor Symphony” at a pace of two beats per second. Their search for financial support led them to Eastman Kodak, where they were assigned a team of researchers. Their hard work paid off and in 1936, Kodachrome® film was introduced to the world and became the first successfully mass-marketed color film that used a subtractive color process. The availability of a robust, practical color film helped to usher in a cultural, artistic and commercial revolution as amateur and professional photographers embraced this new technology.
- Frederic Eugene Ives
As a pioneer of color and stereoscopic photography, Inductee Frederic Ives contributed greatly to the advancement of photographic film production. He showed an early aptitude for photographic film development, and at just 18 years old, was put in charge of Cornell University’s photographic laboratory. Here he created an early halftone printing process, and he continued to develop the process throughout his lifetime. This method of printing breaks photographs into small dots of varying size and uniform spacing, and it is still used in newspapers, offset copy machines and laser printers. Over the course of his accomplished career, Ives earned 70 patents pertaining to halftone printing technology and innovative optical equipment.
- Edwin Land
Physicist, manufacturing executive and NIHF Inductee Edwin Land’s many accomplishments include developing the first modern polarizers for light, discovering theories and practices for the application of polarized light, improvements to infrared night-vision instruments and polarized sunglasses and lenses. However, the innovation for which he is best known is the instant one-step photography made popular for the company he founded, the Polaroid Corp. Incredibly, his name appears on more than 500 parents.
- Steve Sasson
For decades, cameras were purely mechanical devices. This began to change in the 1970s when, while working at Kodak, NIHF Inductee Steve Sasson was tasked with finding a practical use for the new charge-coupled device (CCD) invented by NIHF Inductees Willard Boyle and George Smith. The CCD was a mechanism that captured light and transferred it into data, and Sasson’s goal was to create an all-electric camera design. After a year, Sasson had created a device that successfully captured an image, converted it into an electronic signal, digitized that signal and stored the image. With that innovation, the digital camera was born. Today, almost all digital cameras use the same structure that Sasson invented.
- Eric R. Fossum
Many people today take pictures with the cameras in their mobile phones, often using a piece of technology that was originally developed at NASA. In 1990, the organization was experiencing problems with the CCDs they were building for the Hubble Space Telescope and needed to improve their reliability and imaging performance. NIHF Inductee Eric R. Fossum, who was working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, took on the challenge. His invention – the CMOS active pixel sensor camera-on-a-chip – proved to be the all-in-one solution that fit the bill. It placed all the necessary technology onto a single computer chip that could then be used on interplanetary spacecraft. Following this scientific application, Fossum’s CMOS technology found additional uses in the consumer market, starting with digital cameras and later with camera phones. Today, over 90% of camera phones use his CMOS image sensor technology, and he has even received an Emmy Award for his development of intra-pixel charge transfer CMOS image sensors.
Learn More About Our World-Changing Inductees
We invite you to visit our website to explore the stories and accomplishments of many more NIHF Inductees.