Inventor of technicolor
When audiences were awed by the sudden blast of colour in The Wizard of Oz, it was thanks to Professor Kalmus’s invention.
When Queen’s trustees hired Herbert Kalmus in 1910, they were impressed by his credentials and his research. A bright young metallurgist with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Zurich, Professor Kalmus was performing promising work on cobalt. Though he was hired by the School of Mining, Kalmus’ curiosity drew him to the movies.
During the day, shy and scholarly Professor Kalmus lectured on mining, but at night he retreated to his lab in Nicol Hall and toyed with ways to improve motion pictures. The booming high-tech industry of the day, movies were an attractive research subject, and Professor Kalmus wanted to fix whatever problem made the films flickering, jittery affairs.
This sparked his curiosity over how to bring colour to the movie screen. At the time, films were painstakingly hand coloured. Professor Kalmus – whom his colleagues nicknamed “Colour Kalmus” – devoted his time to developing a motion-picture camera that captured the colour spectrum. There was no dramatic breakthrough, but in 1915 a Boston lawyer advanced him $10,000 to create the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation.
The Queen’s trustees urged Professor Kalmus to focus on his cobalt research and other faculty duties. Instead, he resigned and moved to Boston to continue his work. By the 1930s, he had perfected a three-colour camera that effectively captured the full spectrum.
When audiences were awed by the sudden blast of colour in The Wizard of Oz, it was thanks to Professor Kalmus’s invention, and technicolor entered the lexicon of modern entertainment. The Motion Picture Academy gave Professor Kalmus a special award honouring his breakthrough, and his name appeared in innumerable film credits.