I’ve posted before about Eadweard Muybridge, genius of nascent cinema who wound up on trial for murder. There’s a new book about him, The Inventor and the Tycoon, which receives a beautifully written review this week in the New York Times by Candice Millard. The opening:
“Genius, it seems, is almost always accompanied by eccentricity, if not madness. Those rare instances of genuine brilliance that we find scattered throughout history — in the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, the mathematical equations of John Nash — often appear to have come at great cost to the minds that produced them. The work of Eadweard Muybridge is no exception.
While Muybridge’s photographs are widely known, his personal life has been largely neglected, which seems incredible now that, in Edward Ball’s engrossing book, The Inventor and the Tycoon, we have the whole fascinating story, full of strange and surprising details. At the height of his genius, Muybridge, a British immigrant whose stunning advancements in photography in the mid-to-late 1800s astonished the world and gave rise to the motion picture industry, looked and generally lived like a vagabond. He dressed in clothing so tattered that his uncombed, usually unwashed, hair poked out of holes in his hat, and his pants threatened to fall off in pieces as he walked. He ate cheese flies, tiny insects that hover around the tops of old cheese and that he used to gather up into packages and snack on as he brooded over his photographs. Then there was the small matter of the murder.
In 1874, just a year after one of his most important breakthroughs, when he was well into the work that would make him famous, Muybridge killed a man.”