His work was significant in the development of cardiology, physical instrumentation, aviation, cinematography and the science of labor photography. He is widely considered to be a pioneer of photography and an influential pioneer of the history of cinema.
Marey started by studying blood circulation in the human body. Then he shifted to analyzing heart beats, respiration, muscles (myography), and movement of the body. To aid his studies he developed many instruments for precise measurements. For example, he was successful in selling an instrument called Sphygmographe to measure the pulse. In 1869 Marey constructed a very delicate artificial insect to show how an insect flies and to demonstrate the figure-8 shape it produced during movement of its wings. Then he became fascinated by movements of air and started to study bigger flying animals, like birds. He adopted and further developed animated photography into a separate field of chronophotography in the 1880s. His revolutionary idea was to record several phases of movement on one photographic surface. In 1890 he published a substantial volume entitled Le Vol des Oiseaux (The Flight of Birds), richly illustrated with photographs, drawings, and diagrams. He also created stunningly precise sculptures of various flying birds.
Marey studied other animals too. He published La Machine animale in 1873 (translated as "Animal Mechanism"). The English photographer Eadweard Muybridge carried out his "Photographic Investigation" in Palo Alto, California, to prove that Marey was right when he wrote that a galloping horse for a brief moment had all four hooves off the ground. Muybridge published his photos in 1879 and received some public attention.
Marey hoped to merge anatomy and physiology. To better understand his chronophotographic images, he compared them with images of the anatomy, skeleton, joints, and muscles of the same species. Marey produced a series of drawings showing a horse trotting and galloping, first in the flesh and then as a skeleton.
Marey's chronophotographic gun was made in 1882, this instrument was capable of taking 12 consecutive frames a second, and the most interesting fact is that all the frames were recorded on the same picture, using these pictures he studied horses, birds, dogs, sheep, donkeys, elephants, fish, microscopic creatures, molluscs, insects, reptiles, etc. Some call it Marey’s "animated zoo". Marey also conducted the famous study about cats landing always on their feet. He conducted very similar studies with a chicken and a dog and found that they could do almost the same. Marey also studied human locomotion. He published another book Le Mouvement in 1894.
Marey also made movies. They were at a high speed (60 images per second) and of excellent image quality: in slow-motion cinematography, he had come close to perfection. His research on how to capture and display moving images helped the emerging field of cinematography.
Towards the end of his life he returned to studying the movement of quite abstract forms, like a falling ball. His last great work was the observation and photography of smoke trails. This research was partially funded by Samuel Pierpont Langley under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution, after the two met in Paris at the Exposition Universelle (1900). In 1901 he was able to build a smoke machine with 58 smoke trails. It became one of the first aerodynamic wind tunnels.
- Physiologie médicale de la circulation du sang (1863) (Physiology of blood circulation.)
- Études physiologiques sur les caractères graphiques des battements du cœur (1865) (Physiological
studies on the graphic characteristics of heartbeats.)
- Du mouvement dans les fonctions de la vie (Movement in the functions of life.)
- "Du vol des oiseaux", (The flight of birds) La Revue scientifique 14, 21 August, 11 September and 2 October 1869 (Text on line)
- La Machine animale. Locomotion terrestre et aérienne (The animal machine, terrestrial and aerial locomotion)(1873–1874)
- Physiologie expérimentale (Experimental physiology) (1875)
- Pression et vitesse du sang (Pressure and flow-rate of blood) (1876)
- Moteurs Animés. Expériences de physiologie graphique, (A Study in Motion) La Nature, N°278 - 28 September 1878 et N°279 - 5 October 1878
- La Méthode graphique dans les sciences expérimentales (1878) (Text on line)
- La Circulation du sang à l'état physiologique et dans les maladies (1881) (Text on line)
- Études pratiques sur la marche de l'homme. Expériences faites à la station physiologique du Parc des Princes., La Nature, N° 608 - 24 January 1885
- Le vol des oiseaux (1890) éd. G. Masson - Préface publiée dans La Revue scientifique 19 October 1889
- Des appareils enregistreurs de la vitesse, La Nature, N°878 - 29 March 1890 (Text on line)
- Le vol des insectes étudié par la chronophotographie. La Nature N°974 - 30 Janvier 1892 Text on line
- Mouvements de natation de la raie, La Nature, N°1029 - 18 February 1893 (Text en line)
- Le Mouvement Des Liquides Étudié Par La Chronophotographie La Nature, N°1040 - 6 mai 1893 (Text en line)
- avec Georges Demenÿ, Études de physiologie artistique faites au moyen de la chronophotographie (1893)
- Des mouvements que certains animaux exécutent pour retomber sur leurs pieds, lorsqu’ils sont précipités d’un lieu élevé, La Nature, N°1119 - 10 November 1894 (Text en line)
- Le Mouvement (1894)
- La Station physiologique de Paris, La Revue scientifique 29 December 1894 (Text en line) et 6 January 1895 (Text en line)
- Analyse des mouvements du cheval par la chronophotographie, La Nature, N°1306 - 11 Juin 1898 Text en line
- The science of movement and the image of time: online exhibition by the BIUM (Bibliothèque interuniversitaire de médecine et d'odontologie, Paris), with the Collège de France and Pr Marta Braun (Ryerson University), author of Picturing Time : The Work of Etienne-Jules Marey (University of Chicago Press, 1992)
- Movements of Air, Etienne-Jules Marey, Photographer of Fluids
- Online exhibition of images, and movies, and animation
- Etienne-Jules Marey: digital library, BIUM (Paris)
- Photo, bibliography, and biography in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Étienne-Jules Marey|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Étienne-Jules Marey at the Internet Movie Database
- "Bodies Against Time," an essay by Zoe Beloff in online magazine Triple Canopy.