OSA Centennial Snapshots: Broadway Lights Inspire Innovation

Patricia Daukantas

Before he dreamed up instant photography, OSA Honorary Member Edwin Land invented the first inexpensive synthetic polarizer. But that was only part of a larger mission.

figureNew York City’s Times Square at night, 1934. [Source: Library of Congress]

During the height of the Roaring Twenties, New York’s avenues blazed with cacophonous lights: red neon bulbs twisting themselves into advertising messages; flashing incandescent lamps swirling around theatrical marquees; broad automotive headlights swerving around pedestrians dodging their way through traffic; smooth store windows and street puddles randomly reflecting glare. Into this visual din stepped a college student nicknamed Din, temporarily blinded by the glare from oncoming cars, but permanently inspired by it.

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