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George Eastman

George EastmanBorn: 12-Jul-1854
Birthplace: Waterville, NY
Died: 14-Mar-1932
Location of death: Rochester, NY
Cause of death: Suicide [1]
Remains: Buried, Kodak Park, Rochester, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist [2]
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Inventor, Philanthropist
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Inventor of the Kodak camera

George Eastman invented a dry-plate photographic system, and later the system of film on rolls of gelatin-coated paper, which effectively superceded the previous system of chemicals, glass tanks, and heavy plate holders that kept photography out of the reach of all but professionals and the most dedicated hobbyists. "What we were doing", he later said, "was not merely making dry plates, but [making] photography an everyday affair."

In 1888 he invented the "snapshot" camera, under the name Kodak. One of the first brand names invented from nonsense syllables, Eastman said he called it Kodak because he was fond of the sound of the letter K. As his Kodak cameras and film rolls (manufactured for use in either his own or competitors' cameras) became more and more popular and profitable, Eastman pioneered an employee dividend system that made his workers part-owners of the firm, and he gave millions of dollars to the Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and smaller but still generous sums to the Tuskegee Institute.

In fading health at the age of 77, he shot himself in the head on 14 March 1932, leaving a note that read simply, "To my friends: My work is done. Why wait?"


[1] Suicide at age 77 with a self-inflicted gunshot to the heart, to avoid a battle with spinal stenosis (already painful in his case). His note read, "My work is done. Why wait?"

[2] No religion to speak of, believing that man was fundamentally a collection of molecules. His funeral was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Father: George Washington Eastman (schoolmaster, b. 9-Sep-1815, d. 27-Apr-1862)
Mother: Maria Kilbourn Eastman (b. 22-Aug-1821, m. 25-Sep-1844, d. 16-Jun-1907)
Sister: Ellen Maria Eastman Andrus (b. 4-Nov-1845, d. 25-Jun-1884)
Sister: Emma Kate Eastman (wheelchair-bound, b. 6-Aug-1850, d. 3-Dec-1870)

    High School: (dropped out)
    University:
Major benefactor, Rochester Institute of Technology
    University: Major benefactor, University of Rochester
    University: Major benefactor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    University: Major benefactor, Tuskegee Institute

    Kodak Founder
    Explorers Club
    Phi Mu Alpha Fraternity
    Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Founder (1922)
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 1709 Vine Street (motion pictures)
    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Shot: Self-Inflicted (fatal; 14-Mar-1932)
    Risk Factors: Arthritis

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #1062 (3 cents, issued 12-Jul-1954)


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