Remembering George Eastman, founder of Kodak, inventor of roll film

July 12, 2015 /Photography News/ Born 161 years ago, on July 12, 1854,  George Eastman was an American inventor and philanthropist. He founded the Eastman Kodak Company and invented roll film, helping to bring photography to the mainstream. Roll film was also the basis for the invention of motion picture film in 1888 by the world's first filmmaker Louis Le Prince, and a few years later by his followers Léon Bouly, Thomas Edison, the Lumière Brothers and Georges Méliès.

George Eastman. Part of Bain News Service collection.
In 1884, Eastman patented the first film in roll form to prove practicable; in 1888 he perfected the Kodak camera, the first camera designed specifically for roll film. In 1892, he established the Eastman Kodak Company, in Rochester, New York, one of the first firms to mass-produce standardized photography equipment. This company also manufactured the flexible transparent film, devised by Eastman in 1889, which proved vital to the subsequent development of the motion picture industry.

Page 1 of George Eastman's patent no. 388,850, for his film camera and roll film. 4 September 1888

During his lifetime, he donated $100 million, mostly to the University of Rochester and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (under the alias "Mr. Smith"). The Rochester Institute of Technology has a building dedicated to Mr. Eastman, in recognition of his support and substantial donations.

In his final two years, Eastman was in intense pain, caused by a degenerative disorder affecting his spine. He had trouble standing and his walking became a slow shuffle. Today it might be diagnosed as lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by calcification in the vertebrae. Eastman grew depressed, as he had seen his mother spend the last two years of her life in a wheelchair from the same condition. On March 14, 1932, Eastman died by suicide with a single gunshot to the heart, leaving a note which read, "My work is done. Why wait?" His funeral was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester; he was buried on the grounds of the company he founded at Kodak Park in Rochester, New York.

His former home at 900 East Avenue in Rochester, New York was opened as the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in 1949. 

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  1. Anonymous says

    Thank You, Mr. Eastman !

    Anonymous says

    they make epic cameras.

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