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The Pendulum

Berenice Abbott, American, 1898 - 1991

Photograph taken in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, North and Central America


Gelatin silver print

Image/Sheet/Mount: 23 1/8 × 5 3/8 inches (58.7 × 13.7 cm)

Research inconclusive. Copyright may apply.

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the estate of Chenoweth Hall, 2012

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In her 1939 manifesto on photography and science, Abbott wrote, “There needs to be a friendly interpreter between science and the layman. I believe photography can be this spokesman.”

Some twenty years later, she explored this connection in depth, photographing scientific principles for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Physical Science Study Committee (PSCC). Largely a Cold War reactionary project fueled by Sputnik’s launch in 1957, the PSCC aimed to strengthen Americans’ understanding of physics by producing an up-to-date and cutting-edge photographically illustrated textbook. The Pendulum, a demonstration of periodic motion, is one of the project’s most understated and abstract pictures.