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The "Milk Drop Coronet" and the War Room


Two photographs connected visually and historically.

I'm sure I'm not the first to have seen these connections, but they became apparent to me when I picked up a DVD of "Dr. Strangelove" on sale at a bookstore.  The bottom picture on the DVD case is the famous War Room...And for me the connection was made.

Milk Drop Coronet was made by Harold E. Edgerton in 1936.  Edgerton was an MIT electrical engineer who was a pioneer in high speed photography and the inventor of the electronic stroboscopic flash.  The milk drop and other Edgerton images are fixtures of our collective visual experience -- photos of bullets slicing playing cards, multi-flash photos of a golfer's swing, etc.  The most common phrase you'll see about Edgerton's work is "seeing the unseen". 

The historical link?  Edgerton formed a company with two others from MIT -- Kenneth Germeshausen and Herbert Grier -- which was eventually to be known as EG&G (and where I worked briefly in 2002 and 2003).  EG&G did a lot of work involving nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons testing.  A long-time family friend and Air Force career officer remembers seeing "EG&G" on a many items used in the Air Force's nuclear weapons program.

Did Stanley Kubrik know about this connection?  I don't know, but he was a meticulous producer/director, quite comfortable with irony and parody.  And certainly familiar with the visual image of the milk drop, but the best information I have is that the relationship was not intentional.

Note:  I added some "headspace" to the war room image to approximate the composition of the milk drop photo.