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underwater spark light source

Major collection: Science & Technology
Named collection: Harold E. Edgerton Collection
Object type: spark coil
Maker: Materials: metal; glass; wood
Measurements: 22" x 3" x 3"
Nomenclature: photographic tools and equipment - high speed photographic equipment
Classification: tools and equipment

Rebuilt in France by Harold Edgerton using spark coil from Jacques-Yves Cousteau's automobile (1954). Charlie Wyckoff, 08/06/93: "It's going to be tough to say much about this. This goes into a watertight casing and all I can say is it was basically rebuilt aboard ship so it doesn't look like the original at all. The spark coil here, obviously, is a little bigger than usual. . . . This whole thing had to be redone as the original unit crapped out over there and this is typical of what happens when we go out on field trips. Something would happen and we didn't have the equipment to really fix it right, so in this case, he said, hmm, you've got a spark coil in your car, let's use it. But, unfortunately, you ought to have the housing that goes with this. (A similar housing in the collections is pointed out.) What you want to do then . . . is to find a case where you can use that. The case you just showed me, like this one right here, these are too modern. So you want one of the older cases."


Caption: While working with Jacques Cousteau in France in 1954, Edgerton designed this high-speed spark light source for underwater use. But, as often happens with experimental apparatus, the underwater flash failed to perform as hoped and it had to be modified on site. Not having the extensive parts warehouse of Strobe Alley at hand, Edgerton used the spark coil from Cousteau's car as an essential part of the spark coil circuit. Charles Wychoff, on of Edgerton's lifelong colleagues, remembered, "This whole thing had to be redone as the original unit crapped out over there and this is typical of what happens when we go out on field trips. Something would happen and we didn't have the equipment to really fix it right, so in this case, he said, hmm, you've got a spark coil in your car, let's use it." This is a perfect illustration of Edgerton's ability to "make-do" and "recycle" materials available. Much of Edgerton's existing equipment reflects such modifications and cannibalizations -- the inevitable "tweaking" of scientific work.
IN-2434

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