The Case Research Lab

What a phenomenal tour, and what a brilliant man Theodore Case was! For anyone interested in movies, and films, it is a must see if not only to give homage to this genius.

Theodore Case graduated from Yale with a chemistry degree. He, like his father, Willard E. Case, held a fascination for science. His father, a trained lawyer never practiced law, but was a businessman, and scientist. When Theodore returned from Yale the Research Labs were begun in 1916.

At the Lab Case began researching minerals to create photo electric cells which eventually became a film industry standard. At one point he met Earl Sponable, a Cornell graduate with a degree in chemistry becoming the first lab employee and his partner. Sponable later worked in Hollywood acquiring an Academy Award from his genius.

Both he and Sponable worked tirelessly on their projects. One of their projects was used during World War I where a signaling method to transfer light into electricity. While this worked ship to ship for a distance of 6 to 9 miles, this became the precursor of channeling sound into film.

Seen below is the actual device used.

The Chemical Room of the Lab.

The Lab Worktables.

These discoveries occurred while Case was in his 30’s, and Case sold his cell rights to the self-proclaimed, “Father of Radio,” Lee De Forest, which proved a poor business decision. After this Case was wary of business concerns, but eventually did join forces with William Fox and developed a sound film company, Movietown.

Case yearned to return to his Lab and sold his stock in Fox months before the stock market crash. He resumed his life in research and sold his home for $1. to those interested in developing a Cayuga County Museum. He lived his remaining life at his family home at Owasco Lake, and continued working at his lab. Dying prematurely at 55 years old he also left the lab to the Museum.

Case’s office at the Lab.


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