Albert G. Richard photo by Barbara Bloom
Welcome to the world
3-D flower X-rays
Professor Albert Richards was a master gardener who nurtured many plants. But he especially loved flowers and was dedicated to preserving their beauty through flower X-rays.
1965 Albert G Richards Fathers Day Ann Arbor MI news
Over forty years of experimentation with this unusual art form has led to its present high degree of excellence. University of Michigan Emeritus Professor Albert G. Richards' floral radiographs literally provide one with a third eye with which to see and appreciate the hidden beauty within flowers.
"He may have taught about teeth, but he thought about flowers. . ."
—Margaret G. Zackowitz, National Geographic magazine, "Flashback", November 2006
Albert G. Richards was born in Chicago in 1917. His training in photography began at an early age, because his father was a professional photographer. Formal training at the University of Michigan led to degrees in Chemical Engineering and Physics. In 1940, he joined the School of Dentistry staff as an instructor and focused his interest on x-ray photography and its application to dentistry by teaching himself dental radio-graphy. By 1959 he was made Professor and in 1974 was named the Marcus L. Ward Professor of Dentistry, the first distinguished professorship at the University of Mich-igan's dental school. His teaching career at Michigan spanned more than four decades.
A creative, inventive researcher and out-standing teacher, Professor Richards was known as one of the world's foremost auth-orities in the field of dental radiography. He earned many honors for his teaching and research, including establishment by the School of the Albert G. Richards Award for Excellence in Radio-graphy, which is given annually to a student.
Among his many accomplishments were the invention of the recessed cone dental x-ray head (now found in many dental offices), being the first to use the electron microscope to see the microstructure of human teeth, and inventing the liquid mold technique for showing, with x-rays, the topography of surfaces. This technique has been applied in such diverse fields as finger-printing and identification, botany, paleo-botany, art and archeology. Other products of his inventive mind are dynamic tomo-graphy, a radiographic procedure that allows scientists to examine successively, an infinite number of thin layers of an object, and devising the Buccal Object Rule, a radiographic procedure for determining the relative location of objects hidden in the oral region. Before his death in 2008, he also held six patents on his inventions and was the author of more than 100 publica-tions.
Albert G Richards was an extraordinary man who trained as a photographer and then taught himself dental radiography. Amongst many other things he explored floral radiography producing beautiful images first published in National Geo-graphic in 1962.
He and his wife, Marian, raised their five daughters in a beautiful house he built with his own hands. In retirement, he kept busy pursuing his avocation - the radiographing of flowers. Examples of his unusual and beautiful art have appeared in prominent magazines around the world, in museums, in encyclopedias, and on calendars.
Calla Lily F-351-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Clematis - double F-375-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
1986 Smithsonian magazine October
Cobra Plant D-325-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Helleborus Niger A-878-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Albert G. Richards Floral Radiographs
Pink Rose XGA2-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Rose and Ant A-1899-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Lunaria B-1259-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Cyclamen F-304-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Colombine D-377-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Jack-in-the-Pulpit 1055-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
A Stereojet Display at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
The Stereo Floral Radiography of Albert G. Richards:
in Culver City, California
by David Starkman
Using the principles of polarization, the vectograph consisted of a clear plastic (cellulose) sheet with polarizing layers of stretched polyvinyl alcohol affixed to the front and back sides of the plastic sheet. These front and back layers had their pol-arizing directions oriented at 90 degrees to each other. Then a gelatin relief matrix is made for Left and Right negatives using a wash-off relief film. The thicker areas of the gelatin will hold more of a special so-called "ink" and will correspond to the darker areas of the finished vectograph. The wash-off relief film "prints" are taped in registration with the front and back sides of the vectograph "film" and soaked in an iodine solution. The vectograph film is placed between the chemically soaked "prints" and run between rollers similar to those in an old-time wringer washing machine.
The end result looks like a clear plastic sheet with a fuzzy double image of the subject. However, when viewed with polarized 3D glasses that match the polarization angles of the vectograph, each eye sees a single sharp black and white transparency resulting in a 3D image.
For a much more detailed illustrated explanation of the process see http://resources.culturalheritage.org/pmgtopics/2009-volume-thirteen/13_15_Bernier.html
To make the vectograph viewable like a print, rather than back-lit, the back of the vectograph is painted with a reflective silver paint that maintains polarization. This results in a fully 3D image that may be viewed with polarized 3D glasses like viewing a print.
The original vectographs were mono-chrome. Maintaining good alignment between the left and right layers was the most critical step in having an easy-to-view final 3D print. Starting in 1953 color vectographs were also made, using three different color chemical "inks". However, this required three separate printing processes for each layer for each eye. Since that required six layers to be printed, all in perfect alignment for a good result, only a small number of experimental color vectographs were made. First color vecto-graphs experiments were started in the 1940's by Vivian Walworth, and others, at Polaroid.
This leads us to the development of the StereoJet. After many years of develop-ment by Julius Scarpetti, Philip DuBois, Richard Friedhoff and Vivian Walworth, the StereoJet was first licensed for practical commercial use in 1999.
The principle of the StereoJet is bascially the same as the Vectograph. There is a front and back layer to a nondepolarizing cellu-lose triacetate or cellulose acetate butyrate substrate, each layer covered in polarizing material that is polarized at 90 degrees to each other. However, in this case, the polarization material is covered in a perme-able membrane that allows special colored inks, that are applied by inkjet printing, to get through the membrane to react with the polarization material, creating a colored polarized layer. Like the experimental color vectographs of the 1940s this process required 3 color layers for each eye. How-ever, in this case, using repeatable registra-tion, possible with certain inkjet printers, the six passes through the inkjet printer required to get a final full color StereoJet became both achievable and practical.
A number of 3D artists and photographers took advantage of the StereoJet process to create beautiful full color 3D "prints" or back lit 3D transparencies. You may still find them for sale on eBay occasionally.
Sadly, around 2008 or so, due to the closing of the company making the StereoJet print-ing material, it became too difficult to find a manufacturer, and the material to make StereoJets became no longer available.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology has always had an interest in 3D, and there are many types of 3D found in displays throughout the museum. They were an early adopter of the StereoJet Process, and the first (and to date, only) use they made of this process to create the StereoJet 3D transparencies used in the Albert Richards display. Since the original 3D slides were black and white, the MJT printed the StereoJets to match the originals.
When the exhibit first opened there was an adjacent room full of original 1940's Vectographs, donated from the collection of Susan Pinsky. While the Albert Richards display is still there, the Vectograph room was removed to create another beautiful and fantastic display space called "The Bestiary" featuring small three dimensional animated scenes that may be viewed without any 3D viewing aids. The Vecto-graph collection is in storage, and may resurface someday in a new exhibit space.
A set of 14 of Albert Richards Stereo Floral Radiographs on View-Master reels may be purchased from the Museum of Jurassic Technology at https://www.mjtgiftshop.org/collections/museum-products/products/the-stereo-floral-radiography-of-al-richards-view-master-reels
The beautiful stereo floral radiographs of Albert G. Richards have been described elsewhere on this page. The only public display of these images that we know of is currently at the Museum of Jurassic Tech-nology (MJT) in Culver City, California https://mjt.org
To show these images to their best advan-tage in a museum environment, the MJT has displayed them in the form of back-lit StereoJet transparencies. The thirteen 3D images are approximately 8" x 10" each in size, and mounted into black walls in a totally black viewing room.
Before you walk in to the room you take a pair of polarized 3D glasses mounted on a stick like a large lorgnette, walk into the dark room, and you may stand in front of each of the images at whatever distance you like, and view them in full three dimensions through the polarized 3D lorgnette. If you stand close enough, a hidden switch in the floor in front of each image, illuminates a caption, telling you the name of the flower. Viewed in this way the flowers are both beautiful and magical in their transparent depth.
So, what is a StereoJet transparency? It is a modern version of a vectograph. So, what is a vectograph? A vectograph is a type of stereoscopic print or transparency viewed by using the polarized 3D glasses most commonly associated with projected 3D motion pictures.
Developed at Polaroid Corporation in the late 1930s, and introduced in 1940, the original concept was attributed to Joseph Mahler. Further development of the process was done by Vivian Walworth (and others), who spent the rest of her lifetime working with vectographs, and was instrumental in the development of the next phase of this process, the StereoJet. You will find more information about Vivian Walworth in her own 3-D Legends page. https://archivesusie3d.wixsite.com/3-dlegends/vivian-walworth
Rose full face A-1883-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Rose and Aphid B-1816-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Star Magnolia B-1325-S by Dr Albert G. Richards
Years ago, Albert Richards was a customer of our business, Reel 3-D Enterprises, Inc. One day he told me he was doing something in 3-D that no one else had ever done. I asked him to send me a sample, which he did. When I received the sample stereo radiograph slide I was so excited and impressed that I called him immediately to let him know how powerful I thought his work was. I loved it!!! I asked if I could buy copies of other images, and he said I could. I bought a whole batch, which I have always loved. One of my first impulses was to copy them and add a color filter. After I tried this I shared this information with him, but he didn't agree with my decision to modify them. I still love his work very much, but I am sharing these digitally colorized examples at this time, knowing that he personally preferred the original black and white images. - Susan Pinsky