Capturing the Moment  p.  1  |  2  |  3

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Muybridge’s success in photographing the horse in motion brought him national and international fame. Scientific American, among other publications, ran articles acknowledging Muybridge’s accomplishment. However, when Leland Stanford asked his close friend and horseman Dr. J. B. D. Stillman to publish an analysis of the horse in motion, Stillman used Muybridge’s photography to illustrate the book without crediting the photographer.

image- Photograph of the book- "The Horse in Motion" Enlarge image
The Horse in Motion, J. B. D. Stillman, 1882
  image- Scientific American- "The Science of the Horse’s Motions"Enlarge image
“The Science of the Horse’s Motions”
Scientific American, October 19, 1878
Graphic reproduction


In the 19th century, the horse was as important to work and leisure as the automobile is today. Knowledge of the horse’s gaits, therefore, was especially valuable, particularly to racehorse owners like Leland Stanford. Many attempts had been made to capture the horse’s motion before Muybridge’s success. One such effort, in the form of graphs made by the French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey, inspired Stanford’s project. Marey’s tracings showed that a galloping horse was suspended in the air for a moment. Stanford, however, wanted an image made by the camera—the machine that, some argued, could not lie.

  image- photograph of page from the book Animal Mechanism.  Text with illustration of rider on horseEnlarge image
Animal Mechanism, Etienne-Jules Marey, 1872
Lent by Smithsonian Libraries


Designed by telegraphers from Leland Stanford’s railroad, this model is a prototype of the type of camera shutter and background used for Muybridge’s set-up at Stanford’s Palo Alto, California, horse farm.

  image- Muybridge patent model of method and apparatus for photographing objects in motionEnlarge image
Muybridge patent model of method and apparatus for photographing objects in motion, March 4, 1879

National Museum of American History