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The Inventor and the Tycoon
The Inventor and the Tycoon

“One gallops through this book with undiminished ardor as Ball carefully sculpts prose of bright exuberance.” —Boston Globe


“[A] rousing good yarn at the nexus of industry and art.” —Washington Post


“Engrossing…. Although Muybridge was a chameleon-like figure throughout his life, Ball uses exhaustive research and vivid details to pin him down so we can have a good look at him.” —New York    

    Times Book Review


“Ball has infused the famous and the infamous into a story so large it might as well be fiction.” 

    —Seattle Post-Intelligencer


“This story has all the elements of a fascinating HBO drama—wealth, greed, sex, adultery, genius, betrayal, murder, scandal and tragedy. Ball is an expert himself in kidnapping time and bringing dead men and women back to life.”

    —USA Today                                        


“Fascinating… a beefy and rambunctious history.”  

    —Chicago Tribune


A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures

(Doubleday, 2013)


     The riveting, true story of the partnership between the murderer who invented the movies and the robber baron who built the railroads.

     Edward Ball’s ability to mine history and draw out its secrets has earned him a significant critical reputation. In The Inventor and the Tycoon, he produces the compelling saga of an artistic genius, a ruthless railroad tycoon, and a sordid crime of passion. During the late 1870s, in frontier California, English immigrant Eadweard Muybridge managed to capture time and play it back on a screen, inventing stop-motion photography and moving pictures, breakthrough technologies that ushered in our age of visual media. Bankrolling his endeavor was tycoon (and former California governor) Leland Stanford, who built the western half of the transcontinental railroad and personally drove in the last golden spike. Stanford’s particular obsession was whether the four hooves of a running horse ever left the ground all at once, and with Muybridge he finally found an answer.

​     But personal disaster overshadowed Muybridge’s remarkable achievement. A visionary artist, and technically brilliant, he was also a murderer, and his search for the secrets of motion through photography is inseparable from his gripping true-crime story. Muybridge produced a stunning body of work that celebrated the excess beauty of the American West. Yet when he discovered that the child recently borne by his young wife was not in fact his, he turned into a remorseless killer. The drama of one night changed the course of his life, and his trial—turning on questions of justifiable homicide, sexual rivalry, and the artist’s insanity—became a media sensation.  

​     He killed a man, and then invented the movies. Unfolding on the stage of the Old West, The Inventor and the Tycoon tells the story of an unlikely patron-artist collaboration that launched the age of motion pictures, changing the word. With style and care, Edward Ball explores the collaboration between an eccentric, wandering artist and an industrial magnate. He explains a troubled man with a conflicted legacy of genius and scandal and brings to life the preposterously rich pioneer Californian and founder of Stanford University. The sweeping narrative transports us from Muybridge’s birthplace in England, to the harsh Western frontier, to the extravagant opulence of America’s ruling elite. The story of passion, money, and sinister ingenuity puts on display the virtues and vices of the Gilded Age.


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