Escrime Motion Studies, 1890

Escrime motion studies, Marey Films, 1890.

Étienne-Jules Marey was a French scientist and pioneer in several fields. His early work was in medicine, studying blood flow, but his studies ventured into locomotion where he engaged photographic analysis. His achievements include development of early motion photographic techniques that would prove instrumental in furthering cinematography and high-speed photography, as well as the development of related photographic equipment.

Étienne Jules Marey around 1880, by Félix Nadar.

This includes creating the sub-field that came to be known as chronophotography wherein Marey devised techniques to record multiple images on a single negative at a rate of 12 frames per second (see the prior post of a fencer’s lunge motion by his protégé, Lucien Bull, here).  Though the French are proud of Marey’s vast accomplishments, he conducted some of his work in Naples after the mid 1870’s. His later work which analyzed smoke trails would contribute to the development of the first wind tunnel.

The excerpted video below is from Marey’s studies of human motion (Volume VII) in 1890.  It shows the movement of fencers’ exchanges with foil and sabre, first demonstrated at speed, then in slow motion.

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