Photo of two pieces of fruit side-by-side, with a bullet exiting.

In 6.163 Strobe Project Laboratory, students explore the photography techniques of Prof. Harold “Doc” Edgerton. (Image courtesy of Tara Andrews, Ruben Brown, Francisco Delatorre, and Heather Hooper. Used with permission.)

“Work hard. Tell everyone everything you know. Close a deal with a handshake. Have fun!” 

That was the philosophy of Harold “Doc” Edgerton. Born on this day, April 6, in 1903, the late MIT engineering professor, inventor and explorer is best known for his high-speed strobe photographs of milk drops, bullets through fruit and playing cards, flying birds and human gymnasts.

Edgerton’s love of hands-on learning is alive and well throughout MIT, and especially in the courses and projects of the MIT Edgerton Center. OCW has numerous Edgerton Center courses, from re-creations of Galileo’s experiments to several D-Lab courses on how to design appropriate technology for developing countries.

You can also follow MIT students learning about Edgerton’s photography innovations in the OCW course 6.163 Strobe Project Laboratory. Taught by Jim Bales, this course explains how to make your own strobe photographs, and includes image galleries and demonstration videos of student projects.

“Doc” himself demonstrates strobe photography in this 1987 video from Prof. Alan Oppenheim’s course on Signals and Systems.

Screenshot of Harold "Doc" Edgerton demonstrating strobe photography in his lab.

And for the Edgerton aficionado, the MIT Museum’s Edgerton Digital Collections website is a must-see. With hundreds of images and videos, stories from his life, descriptions of his techniques, and even scans of lab notebooks, it’s sure to inspire the inventor and explorer in all of us.