Eadweard Muybridge’s 1870s Photographs of Galloping Horses Get Encoded on the DNA of Living Bacteria Cells

If you’ve ever studied the history of photography, you’ve inevitably encountered Eadweard Muybridge’s experiments from the 1870s, which used new innovations in photography to answer a simple question: When a horse trots, do all four of its hooves ever leave the ground at once? The question piqued the curiosity of Leland Stanford, former governor of California and co-founder of Stanford University. And so, as Colin Marshall previously noted here, he “called on an English photographer named Eadweard Muybridge, known for his work in such then-cutting-edge subfields as time-lapse and stereography, and tasked him with figuring it out. Using a series of cameras activated by trip wires as the horse trotted past, Muybridge proved that all four of its hooves do indeed leave the ground, winning Stanford the wager.” You can watch the footage resulting from that experiment below.

Above, you can also see the strange new afterlife of that same footage. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

For the first time, [Muybridge’s] movie has been encoded in – and then played back from – DNA in living cells. Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health say it is a major step toward a “molecular recorder” that may someday make it possible to get read-outs, for example, of the changing internal states of neurons as they develop. Neuroscientist Seth Shipman, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, explains the study.

Ultimately, this experiment demonstrates the “power to turn living cells into digital data warehouses,” writes Wired. Shipman does a good job of unpacking the study. Read more about it over at this NIH website.

Related Content:

Eadweard Muybridge’s Motion Photography Experiments from the 1870s Presented in 93 Animated Gifs

See the First Known Photograph Ever Taken (1826)

Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

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