Irvine C. Gardner

Born in 1889, Irvine Clifton Gardner witnessed an unprecedented march of technology. He contributed much to progress in aerial photography in the nearly 40 years he spent at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS). When he joined NBS in 1921 U.S. optics was still in its infancy. In 1950 when he became chief of the division of optics and metrology, the U.S. optical industry was robust. When Gardner retired in 1959, the laser was just on the horizon.

Gardner devoted his career to the field of optical instrument design and testing, but he was best known for his work in photography. In 1932 he published a paper in the NBS Journal of Research on the optical requirements of mapping from an airplane. His work in optics applied to aerial photography has assisted astronomers, solar scientists, and Arctic explorers in their quest to learn more about the earth and its surrounding atmosphere.  

In 1936 Gardner headed a joint NBS-National Geographic Society expedition to what is now known as Khazakstan to observe the total eclipse of the sun.  One of the team’s goals was to take the first natural color photographs of a solar eclipse. Using a 4-m eclipse camera with a 23-cm astrographic lens made in NIST's glass plant, the researchers got their images and new data on the sun's corona, prominences and spectra.

A year later Gardner joined fellow OSA member Floyd Richtmyer as part of the 1937 National Geographic-U.S. Navy expedition to the Canton Islands in the South Pacific to witness another solar eclipse.

In honor of Gardner’s many contributions to aerial photography, the Gardner Inlet in Antarctica and a Moon crater are named after him. He also received OSA’s Ives Medal. Gardner was a fellow of the Society for Imaging Science and Technology and a member of the American Antarctic Association and OSA.

Gardner died in 1972.