Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) wished to catalogue every aspect of human and animal locomotion with his camera. He photographed hundreds of subjects engaged in actions both mundane and arcane: nude figures walking and lifting children, athletes boxing and fencing, and animals hurdling, kicking, or slowly ambling along. He was the first photographer to visually dissect these activities, creating images that delighted and mystified the public in the late 19th century.
Hired in 1872 to settle a bet on whether a galloping horse has all four feet off the ground at once, Muybridge eventually secured a photographic silhouette proving that it does–an artistic and scientific revelation. In 1883, he began working at the University of Pennsylvania on a full-scale investigation of human and animal locomotion. With suggestions from local experts, including the artist Thomas Eakins, he commenced photographing subjects that would serve artists, physiologists, and veterinarians. He made numerous improvements to his equipment that enabled him to take more and better images.
In 1887, the university published Muybridge's results–a set of 781 photographic sequences titled Animal Locomotion, which were eagerly purchased by artists and universities. Muybridge's impressive investigation of the way we humans move remains the most encyclopedic study of its kind.