Let the adventure begin


For the last month campus has been vacant. It would be hard to convince anyone that there were people still pressing onward with coursework. With the semester ending and the holiday season taking control of December, I embarked on a different kind of journey. This was one of research and discovery through an archive containing a man’s entire life’s work.

Eric Lucey was a scientist and a pioneer in the field of film, inventing a type of camera which was able to film microorganisms and cells. Over the course of his career he worked at the University of Edinburgh in the Animal Genetics department, after a while his methods were adopted by his superior and he was asked to film different types of scientific research for the government. Lucey’s films have a signature of their own; his films are one of a kind. But what makes them truly astonishing is that these films are each accompanied by a storyboard, script, research notes, negatives and stills. His works contain over 24 boxes of documents and 600 accompanying films, to a person first looking into these boxes it seems the man was a hoarder due to the vast amount of printed emails, accounts, budgets, and newspapers from the time. However, he was a hoarder of the right things. He knew this was something extraordinary, something to be documented for posterity. Lucey’s work fully flourished within the Edinburgh University Animal Genetics department as he began experimenting with film. Lucey’s work focused on animal behavior and biology, works such as The Jump of the Flea, Chicken Behavior and Bee Flight are a few examples of these. His films are predominantly timelapse, slowed down or sped up, to fully show the animals range of motion which is often not seen by humans.

“In 1950 Eric C. A. Lucey (1923-2010) suggested to Professor Waddington that a Research Film Unit be established within the Institute for Animal Genetics.  His request was granted by an enthusiastic Waddington and Lucey was able to follow the recommendations of a number of contemporary reports that were calling for an increased use of film in research and teaching.  The Unit remained a one-man operation until Lucey’s early retirement in 1989.

His extensive collection of films includes those about or featuring leading medics and scientists such as Conrad Hal Waddington, Dorian Pritchard, Christopher Pennington and Charlotte Auerbach as well as films focusing on specific teaching and research issues (e.g. ‘Amphibian Dissection’ or ‘Optomotor Responses in Cephalotods’).  Alongside these sit a smaller number of films of a slightly more general nature, somewhat contextualising Lucey’s work and the broader landscape in which the Institute of Animal Genetics operated.  Some of Lucey’s films won international awards, such as Shoreline Sediments which attained first prize in the Geography/Geology section of the Fifth International Festival of Technical and Scientific Films in 1970” (UOE Library).

Throughout the next month a fellow student and myself shall be updating this blog with interesting finds and information about Eric Lucey, as we sift through all of his research. This project will conclude with an event in March to commemorate his vast library of information and works.

The Looking for Lucey Project would like to show Eric Lucey’s importance to both film and science. We hope to spark an interest in you our readers.

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Not only should the word nerdy be my middle name, it should probably be my social security number. I survive on Marvel movie releases and sit on edge for new sci-fi movie trailers. I am just as confused about my life as everyone else, but currently, I just wish I had cup of coffee.

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