Delving a Little Deeper

During the research session this week I found myself drawn further into the life of Eric Lucey. The boxes of content presented to me were packed full of his past colleagues obituaries and momentums from his past life as a part of the Film Unit. This was a reflective box, not only for the family but also for me. Though to me Lucey was still somewhat a stranger, I found pleasure in flicking through the pages of both his autobiography and many photo albums. It was enough to make one think about one’s life and the events which truly mold us into human beings.

                A huge moment in Eric Lucey’s life was his time serving Britain in Jordan, while there he pursued his hobby of photography, capturing local communities and even his friends just wandering about. Upon his return to the United Kingdom he moved to Edinburgh to get his degree. Lucey wrote in his autobiography, “I had recently been at a meeting of The Royal Society of Edinburgh where I had seen what must have been one of the earliest films of cell dividing… It had been shot by Professor Commandon at the Institute Pasteur in Paris this, coupled with my early interests in photography, immediately made me realize the potential of “Time Manipulation” not only for the biological sciences but also as a potential tool that could be applied to a wide range of scientific research projects using both Time Lapse and High-Speed techniques.” Lucey had found a medium that not only interested him but also offered an exciting avenue of study, previeously unexplored.

                After a chance meeting later in his studies with Professor Waddington, Head of the Animal Genetics department, Lucey found a way to pursue this intriguing line of work. Waddington wanted to introduce new techniques and ideas into the department in a way which also preserved the work being done. After Lucey was hired as a Lab Technician in the department, he approached Waddington with the idea of creating a Film Unit that conduct scientific research with the use of film techniques, such as time lapse or high-speed photography. “In general, our aims had a similar focus, though mine were somewhat wider in that I hoped to develop a “Service Unit” accessible to the whole Science Faculty providing centralized equipment and skills available to individual researchers enabling them to explore the potential of “Time control” ranging from high-speed (10000 images per second) to extended time lapse (intervals of minutes),” wrote Lucey. Though the process was never perfected, the film unit did follow through with recording a large catalog of films and research. Most of Lucey’s film work has become closesly affilliated with the Unviersity of Edinburgh, however his work spans to multiple different organisation throughout the United Kingdom, working with agricultural societies, fisheries, communities, scientists, the BBC, and the NHS to name a few. Lucey created a legacy in this field that had previously gone unnoticed by many, until now.

“The Scientific Film Unit may never have developed along the idealistic lines that I had earlier hoped for but it still achieved a significant output, much research footage for detailed analysis, much of which is now deposited in the National Film Archive… The Film Unit was certainly an exciting place in which to have had the privilege to work, and to meet so many scientists who at that time had been at the forefront of the world wide growing field of Genetics. Thank you, Waddington! And all those who encouraged me – even those who were discouraging.” Lucey’s autobiographical notes.

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