Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 8, 1904) was a pioneering photographer whose experiments helped lay the foundations for modern cinema. He also discovered that horses take all four legs off the ground when running, and murdered a man. He was born to John and Susanna Muggeridge (he changed his name several times). Seeking adventure he headed to the US, first New York and later San Fransisco, making his name as a bookseller. During a planned return to Europe he was seriously injured in a stagecoach accident in Texas in which the driver and a fellow passenger were killed outright. Muybridge himself was ejected from the coach and smashed his head on a rock. He woke up nine days later with no recollection of events and returned to New York where he sued the stage coach company and then returned to England. While recuperating he discovered photography, and once well enough, he returned to the US where he set up a travelling studio, recording much of San Franciscan life, including the aftermath of an earthquake. After years of experiments he was able to set up a bank of 12 cameras to capture a horse running, which showed for the first time that they lift all four legs off the ground while in gallop. These early films were shown on a projector he had invented called the zoopraxiscope. At the age of 41 he married 21-year-old divorcee Flora Shallcross Stone but it soon became apparent that this was not to be a lasting union. Their age difference and Muybridge’s long absences from home meant that even after a child, the pair were pulling apart and at some point Flora had an affair with one of their friends, Harry Larkyns. Despite his efforts to break up the couple, Muybridge realised how serious the relationship was when he discovered a cache of the lovers’ letters and, most damaging of all, a photograph of his son Florado with “Harry” written on the back in Flora’s handwriting, suggesting that she believed the child to be Larkyns’. On October 17, 1874, Muybridge tracked Larkyns down. Upon finding him, Muybridge said, “Here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife”, and shot him point-blank. Larkyns died that night, and Muybridge was arrested without protest. At trial he was acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide, with the jury explaining that if their verdict was not in accordance with the law, it was in accordance with the law of human nature. In 1894 he returned to Kingston where he died of prostate cancer a decade later. His ashes were interred in a grave at Woking in Surrey. On the grave’s headstone his name is misspelled as Eadweard Maybridge. But he left a value legacy to the area, he had been a keen supporter of plans for a new museum. The foundation stone was laid a month before his death, and the completed building opened five months later, on October 31, 1904. He had left it his most important equipment, including the zoopraxiscope, a San Francisco panorama and more than 2,000 photographs on glass. He also decreed that the residue of his estate, invested on behalf of a cousin for life, should pass to Kingston Corporation on her death, and the interest used to purchase, from time to time, artistic and scientific books for the public library.
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