In 1912 Yale University professor and explorer Hiram Bingham was searching in the Peruvian Andes for the ancient Inca capital of Vilcabamba when he and his guide stumbled onto one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. Thanks to his photographs of the lost city of Machu Picchu, Bingham and National Geographic helped bring archaeology out of the field and into people’s homes. Photograph by Hiram Bingham
In April 1909, Admiral Robert Peary and his team (pictured here), including Inuits Ooqeah, Ooatah, Egingwah, and Seeglo and fellow American Matthew Henson, became the first explorers to reach what they believed to be the North Pole. Later studies found that Peary was actually 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) short of the Pole. Photograph by Admiral Robert E. Peary
This flashlight photograph of a white-tailed doe with her fawns was among the world’s first nighttime photographs of animals, shot by photographer and wildlife enthusiast George Shiras. A pioneer in flashlight and trip-wire photography, Shiras captured this shot in Whitefish River, Michigan, around 1906 using a remote-control flashlight camera triggered when an animal stepped on the trip wire.
Some of the world’s first aerial photographs were taken not by humans but by birds. In 1903, German engineer Julius Neubronner combined an analog camera and timer, which he attached to a pigeon’s neck. The German military took notice of Neubronner’s innovative approach to aerial photography, and by World War II pigeons were collecting secret aerial photography for both Allied and Axis forces.
The settling of a debate—whether, during its trot, all four of a horse’s hooves are off the ground at the same time—led English photographer Eadweard Muybridge to develop the first photographs to capture the sequence of movement. In 1878, Muybridge arranged 24 trip-wire cameras along a racetrack. The resulting photos, The Horse in Motion, proved all four hooves leave the ground during a trot and set the stage for the first motion pictures.
Centuries of advances in chemistry and optics, including the invention of the camera obscura, set the stage for the world’s first photograph. In 1826, French scientist Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, took that photograph, titled View from the Window at Le Gras at his family’s country home. Niépce produced his photo—a view of a courtyard and outbuildings seen from the house’s upstairs window—by exposing a bitumen-coated plate in a camera obscura for several hours on his windowsill.