Every once in a while, inventors have insights that change the course of major technologies. That's the case with George Eastman, who looked at cameras of his day and realized that there had to be a better way to make pictures. How much do you know about Eastman and his adventures in photography?
Eastman was a forward-thinking businessman who created Eastman Kodak, the company that made photography accessible to the general public.
Eastman wasn't even born until 1854, and by then, cameras had already been in use for decades. But they were extremely unwieldy and only professionals could use them.
When he was just a boy, his father died. When he was 15, his sister also died. His mother made many sacrifices to keep Eastman happy and healthy.
He dropped out of high school and was largely self-taught. He spent much of his young life working in an effort to support his family.
The first camera he designed received an epic name. It was called the Kodak Black, which is not to be confused with the criminally-minded rapper.
He worked as a messenger boy for an insurance firm. He stuck around, learning how to write policies, before moving on to the business of banking.
One of his acquaintances suggested that he buy a camera to capture vacation pictures. Eastman bought the gear but never took the trip, and he was surprised by the unwieldy nature of the camera.
He knew that there had to be a better way to take pictures. He spent years tinkering at home in an effort to improve the characteristics of film and cameras.
His first camera was as big as a microwave, and that's not counting the tripod and other accessories. It's no wonder he saw room for improvement in the technology.
George refined the process for manufacturing dry plates, which were used to record images. Eventually, he could manufacture the plates faster than any other company.
His first business was named Eastman Dry Plate Company, for the company's primary product. After a few different incarnations, in 1892 it was named Eastman Kodak Company of New York.
After the dry plates went to retailers, they sometimes went bad, meaning the company had to recall and replace the product. The recalls nearly caused the company to go under.
There was no focus on employee ownership. His principles revolved around massive advertising, worldwide distribution, mass production and a focus on the consumer.
He ultimately realized that the point of his company wasn't just film manufacturing, it was meant to simplify cameras so that they were as convenient as pencils.
Dry plates were unwieldy and hard to use. Kodak introduced lightweight film on rolls in the 1880s, and this innovation changed everything about photography, from the cameras to film developing.
Once all of the film had been exposed, the consumer mailed the entire camera back to Kodak and then waited for the final pictures to arrive. The company also reloaded the camera with fresh film.
For decades, Kodak had a virtual monopoly on film sales. In the 1970s, the company made up about 90 percent of film sales.
Many stories have come about to explain the name "Kodak." But in reality, Eastman just invented the term to go with his products. He thought the two "Ks" helped to make the name stronger and more memorable.
The whole Kodak concept was predicated on simplicity. "You push the button, we do the rest."
The Brownie was a simple and inexpensive camera introduced in 1900. Kodak targeted children with the camera, hoping to make lifelong consumers out of them.
Eastman treated his employees as if they all had great value to the company. He would sometimes simply give them cash bonuses for no particular reason.
Eastman was known as much for his philanthropy as he was his inventiveness. He gave many millions of dollars to charitable organizations.
He donated around $100 million to charity in the hopes of improving the lives of people around him. He also left many millions after his death to ensure that the charitable work would go on without him.
Film development required a lot of detailed science. Kodak employed full-time scientists to improve film and camera technologies.
Eastman felt that Americans should help people of all ethnicities. He donated millions of dollars to black-centered organizations such as the Tuskegee Institute.
He took one-third of his company's stock (worth roughly $10 million) and gave it to his employees. He felt that sharing the wealth benefited everyone.
George saw tremendous value in proper dental care. He gave millions of dollars to dental clinics around the world to improve the lives of people, particularly children.
Eastman was a very private man who didn't like life in the spotlight. Ironically, there are very few pictures of the man who popularized photography.
Eastman was plagued in his later years by a painful problem affecting his spine. He finally decided to kill himself. He shot himself at age 77.
Eastman felt that he'd already accomplished everything he set out to do. He wrote, "To my friends: My work is done, why wait?"