Inventor. He is best known for revolutionizing photography by putting the first simple camera into the hands of consumers. In so doing, he made what had been a cumbersome and complicated process easy to use and accessible to nearly everyone. Born in Waterville, New York, he became interested in photography through a boarder in his home, and in 1877 abandoned his early career as a bank clerk to work in the field. His specialty was preparing and applying the complex emulsions (liquid silver-salt coatings) used at that time in developing nearly all photographic plates. However, inspired by an article in a British almanac, Eastman dreamed of creating a "dry plate" developing process: dry film would make the developing process incomparably simpler, and could be contained within much smaller and lighter cameras. Within two years, Eastman had built a "Method and Apparatus for Coating Plates" (patent #226,503, granted 1879) which made dry-plate photography a reality. Further innovations followed. In 1885, Eastman began marketing the world's first commercial film: based on transparent and flexible celluloid, it could be cut into narrow strips and used while wound into a roll on a spindle. In 1888, Eastman introduced his "Kodak" to the market: a compact box camera with enough film for 100 exposures, priced at $25. "You press the button, we do the rest" promised George Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera. After exposure, the whole camera was returned to the company in Rochester, New York, where the film was developed, prints were made; new film was inserted, and then returned to the customer. Whatever improvements have been made since then, all non-digital hand-held cameras used today evolved from that first Kodak. Among his other innovations, George Eastman developed an improved film for Edison's motion-picture camera that first came into use in 1891. In 1900, the Brownie camera, designed for Eastman by Frank Brownell, was introduced at a retail price of one dollar. With consumer-loaded film available at 20 exposures for 15 cents, this made photography even more convenient and affordable. In 1925, Eastman gave up the day-to-day management of Kodak, becoming Chairman of the Board. He thereafter concentrated on philanthropic activities. During his lifetime, he gave away an estimated $100 million, mostly to the University of Rochester and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (under the name of "Mr. Smith"). In 1932, he ended his own life by gunshot, leaving a note that said "My work is done. Why wait?"
Bio by: Edward Parsons