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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Thumbnail of Harold E. Edgerton (source)
Harold E. Edgerton
(6 Apr 1903 - 4 Jan 1990)

American engineer and ultra-high-speed photographer known for freezing time by developing ultra-high-speed photography using a strobe light, to make visible that which happened too fast for the eye to see.


Harold E. Edgerton
“Don't make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer.”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 250 px)

“Don’t make me out to be an artist. I am an engineer. I am after the facts, only the facts.”
— Harold E. Edgerton
In Stopping Time: The Photographs of Harold Edgerton (1987)

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This quote is found in several books about the work of high-speed photography pioneer, Harold Edgeton. In each case it shows how Edgerton always asserted himself as a scientist. Nevertheless, the art world also admired his “consistently compelling body of work”1 comprising some of the “most remarkable time-motion photographs ever made.”2 This is not surprising, for his facts had a beauty, just as 19th century mathematicians could admire the beauty in an elegant formula.

Edgerton spent his entire career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Having invented ultra high flash speeds in the range of one millionth of a second, his multiple-exposure photographs could freeze motion with short stroboscopic bursts of intense light, and reveal the details of motion far beyond the capability of the human eye to detect. When he calculated the speed at which a crack spread through plate glass, it was nearly a mile a second!3

1 San Jose Museum of Art, Into the 21st century: selections from the permanent collection, San Jose Museum of Art, May 23-September 12, 1999 (1999), 25.
2 Joseph Meehan, Capturing Time & Motion: The Dynamic Language of Digital Photography (2009), 33.
3 Nancy A. Anderson, Michael R. Dietric,The Educated Eye: Visual Culture and Pedagogy in the Life Sciences (2012), 196. The footnote cites Harold E. Edgerton and Kenneth J. Germeshausen, 'The Mercury Arc as an Actinic Stroboscopic Light Source', Review of Scientific Instruments (1932), 3, 535-542; F.E. Bastow and Harold E. Edgerton, 'Glass Fracture Velocity', Journal of the American Ceramics Society (1939), 22, 302-307.

As quoted, without source, in Gus Kayafas and Estelle Jussim, Stopping Time: The Photographs of Harold Edgerton (1987), 18. Please contact Webmaster if you know the original source.


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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