Etienne-Jules Marey Biography (1830-1904)

physiologist and inventor

Etienne-Jules Marey joined his interests in medicine and mechanics to inventinstruments useful in the realms of physiology and cinematography. To Marey the movie camera was an instrument to be used in research on animal locomotion, but to the rest of the world, it was the force behind the advent of the motion picture industry.

Born in Beaune, in the Burgundy region of France, on March 5, 1830, Marey wasthe son of a wine merchant and a schoolteacher. To please his father, Mareystudied medicine at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. He chose physiology because it was the only science field in which he could combine his interest inanimals and mechanics.

Marey was particularly intrigued by blood circulation. In his first decade ofresearch, Marey invented the sphygmograph, a device that graphically recordsthe pulse, and the kymograph, which graphically depicts blood pressure. After 1868, when he became a professor at the Collège de France, in Paris,Marey investigated the mechanics of animal locomotion. In the course of hisinvestigations, often involving horses or birds, Marey invented the tambour to graphically record subtle movements. This device is made up of an air-filled metal capsule encased in a rubber membrane, which is attached to a fine flexible tube. When the air pressure in the tube changed, it moved a lever on agraphical recording device.

In 1881, after seeing a photographic demonstration by Edward Muybridge, Mareydevoted himself to animal photography and its mechanics, and in so doing invented the first movie camera. Unlike Muybridge, Marey decided to use one camera rather than many to produce a series of images in rapid succession. In 1882 Marey was able to take 12 pictures per second using his fusil photographique, or photographic gun, which looked like a rifle with a magazine made of a photographic glass plate. While creating the illusion of movement, the postage-stamp size of the photographs was too small and the frames per second too few to allow for adequate analysis of motion.

After George Eastman marketed, in 1885, a photographic film that used a silver bromide emulsion on a gelatin base, Marey was able to increase exposure speed. In his chambre chronophotographique, a paper ribbon of film that produced images 3.6 sq. in. (9 cm) was drawn along behind a shutter. There itstopped long enough to be exposed before it was moved forward. Marey was thusable to expose 60 images per second.

During the next 20 years, Marey filmed a wide variety of human and animal movements using his new apparatus. As well as slowing rapid movements by the useof high-speed cinematography, he also invented the technique of time lapse,which is used to speed up of slow movements. Marey studied his films frame byframe and published his observations in numerous articles in scientific journals.

Etienne-Jules Marey not only contributed to the study of physiology and locomotion, he opened the door to another arena--cinematography. In his quest forscientific knowledge, Marey started an industry that has entertained people worldwide. Marey died in Paris on May 15, 1904.

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