Turning the Book Wheel
A tumblr of semi-random stuff from the stacks of the Smithsonian Libraries
30 of January, 2014

The things you learn making animated gifs! Here is a set of damselflies in flight, with various speeds, in a report on an international exposition of air flight in the National Air and Space Museum’s rare book collection. While my French is not the greatest, it looks as if various institutions including le Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, la Station physiologique du Collège de France, and l’Institut Marey worked together to study flight of insects and other animals for the International Exposition on Flight, the first airshow held at the Grand Palais in Paris, 1909.

L’Institut Marey was named for Etienne-Jules Marey, a physiologist and contemporary of Eadweard Muybridge. Marey had developed a camera expressly for the scientific study of movement. His last assistant and later replacement as head of l’Insititut Marey, Lucien Bull, further developed the technique by devising a high-speed camera to capture never before seen phenomenon such as a bullet piercing a soap bubble. It was a camera like this that Bull probably used to take the photos of this damselfly. For the first time, they could see precisely how insects took flight. Marey and Bull’s “gun camera” would later develop into modern cinematography, birthing a whole new industry you are probably familiar with.

If your French is decent, or if you’re curious to see the many photographs and illustrations, Rapport officiel de la première exposition international de locomotion aerienne (with the rapport officiel de la deuxième exposition also scanned and starting on p. 139) is definitely worth checking out. 

Posted 7 months ago
Tags:  #flight  #damselflies  #motion  #muybridge  #marey  #étienne-jules marey  #aerienne  #air and space museum

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