In this extraordinary study by philosopher of science François Dagognet, the intriguing figure of Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) emerges afresh. Known best for his innovative and influential chronophotography, Marey is studied here in the context of the full range of his interests and obsessions — as physician, physiologist, aviation researcher, pioneer in time-motion studies, and prodigious inventor. The impact of Marey’s work was to stimulate a reconfiguration in many fields of the status of movement, time, consciousness, and the image. Thus Dagognet locates Marey at a crucial intersection of cultural, scientific, philosophical, and technological modernity.
Marey’s photographic work, his increasingly sophisticated techniques for recording motion, coincided historically with the rise of new models of the relation between the human body and the machine. Marey’s achievement was to show that the living machine spawned by the forces of technological modernity must be thought of in terms of movement, as his influence on Bergson, Futurism, Duchamp, and the rise of Taylorist methods of production reflects. For Marey it was not just a question of understanding animal locomotion: with his constant fabrication of new recording devices, he studied a world that could no longer be grasped by merely looking, and sought to trace the kinetics of flow, turbulence in the air, and dynamics of water and wave patterns.