The Inventor and the Tycoon is an in-depth look at the incongruous partnership between Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford that created an art form
that is ubiquitous today: moving pictures. The contrasts between the two men are so sharply drawn that readers can only marvel that a murderer and the founder of Stanford University banded together to make photographed images move and transport people into unexpected worlds.
Eadward Muybridge could have come from central casting at a movie studio. His particular peculiarities include a lack of attention to cleanliness and a painfully awkward ability to deal with people that culminated in his cold-blooded killing of a man who usurped his wife’s amorous attentions. Well-groomed to the point of fastidiousness, with money to burn and great success in business, Leland Stanford was a studied contrast. With somewhat better people skills than Muybridge, Stanford had built a sumptuous life for himself and his family. The most telling difference between the two men
is Muybridge's obsessively changing the spelling of his name, which indicates at best a personal insecurity and at worst a desire to hide himself and his past misdeed--while Stanford was so proud of his name and his work that he immortalized himself by emblazoning that name on a
Edward Ball’s recounting bogs down in the details at times, but that’s only because
he is devoted to immersing the reader in the past. Copious research brings the glittery side of Stanford’s--and the gritty side of Muybridge’--worlds to life. The combination of sex, murder, money and power provides something for everyone,
provided that everyone is willing to wade through some sluggish passages.