Harold “Doc” Edgerton’s spirit of discovery lives on at the Edgerton Center where we give students the opportunity to learn by doing.
Founded in 1992 to honor the legacy of Harold "Doc" Edgerton — inventor, entrepreneur, explorer and MIT professor — the Edgerton Center offers subjects in engineering and imaging, supports student clubs and teams; manages student machine shops, upholds MIT’s expertise in high-speed and scientific imaging; and offers a year-round K-12 program.
Whether students use our machine tools to fabricate components for a research project, use our water-jet cutter to fabricate a brake rotor, use our high-speed-imaging equipment to measure the motion of a butterfly wing, or use our curriculum to explain electricity to a fourth-grader, we cultivate an overarching ethos (like our tagline) of building, learning, and sharing.
An inventor, an entrepreneur, and a much-loved MIT professor, "Doc” Edgerton would tell his students: “Work hard. Tell everyone everything you know. Close a deal with a handshake. Have fun!”
Born in 1903, Doc was a pioneering engineer and a key figure in modern photography. His work with stroboscopic photography captivated the world with incredible images of fleeting moments: everything from a bullet bursting through an apple to his famous “Coronet” milk-drop photo—which, in 1937, earned a place at the Museum of Modern Art. Doc would go on to use his expertise to capture atomic test blasts for the U.S. government and explore the mysteries of the ocean with Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Doc was a boundless well of creativity. So much so that he once said, “I have three lifetimes worth of things to do. I guess I’ll have to leave some of the problems for the next generation.”
After his death in 1990, the Edgerton Center was founded in 1992 with the generous support of the Edgerton Family Foundation.
Explore Doc Edgerton
A good place to start is this short but heartfelt biography, Harold Eugene Edgerton 1903 – 1990, A Biographical Memoir by J. Kim Vandiver and Pagan Kennedy which includes fond memories from people close to Doc, as well as a useful selected bibliography. It was written for the National Academy of Sciences in 2005 by Edgerton Center Director J. Kim Vandiver in collaboration with Pagan Kennedy.
There are also dozens of articles, books, and films about Doc Edgerton and his work. The Edgerton Digital Collections site allows viewing and browsing of over 22,000 still images of Edgerton materials, 150 films and video that have been restored and are being digitized; access to approximately 8,000 pages from Doc Edgerton’s hand-written laboratory notebooks which have been recently digitized; and hundreds of high-speed photographic images.