May 7, 1909–March 1, 1991
BY VICTOR K. MCELHENY
LESS THAN TWO WEEKS after Edwin Land's death in 1991, members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (and the author) met to plan a day-long memorial conference. Swiftly, they decided on a title, ''Light and Life." The agenda, however, was more difficult. Land was not just a scientist-industrialist. Speakers would have to encompass topics ranging from color vision to business innovation, from military intelligence to patronage of architecture. As the group talked about Land's character, Jerome Wiesner ex-claimed, "Din never had an ordinary reaction to anything!"
Wiesner was referring to the extraordinary versatility of Land's mind and conversation, which enabled him to concentrate intensely on solutions to problems, and to charm and win over the talented people to tackle them. Until late in his life, he took pleasure in leaping up stairs two at a time. Besides energy, the dominant impressions Land created were artistic sensibility, a sense of drama, delight in experiment, relentless optimism. Less evident was a remark-able ability to keep both work and people in compartments. Less than six feet tall, Land had intense eyes and a shock of black hair that riveted attention on him. Despite a soft voice and frequent use of half-sentences, Land was able to convert interior monologues into dramatic public presentations.