Polaroid Goes Bankrupt; Plans to Sell Existing Assets

Essay by esdey May 2006

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The Cambridge-based Polaroid Corporation obtained bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware on October 12.

Last June, Polaroid announced that it would lay off 2,000 employees, approximately a quarter of its 8,000-member global workforce. In September, the company reduced health benefits for some of its workers.

Polaroid intends to continue making and shipping its products while it restructures its business operations and finances and searches for buyers for all or parts of the company. Declining profits and growing debt resulting from the increasing popularity of digital cameras and the nationwide economic slump have forced the company to redesign its operations and pare down employment.

Polaroid's founder, Edwin H. Land, dropped out of Harvard University in 1926 to develop commercial applications for light polarization. In 1937, he formed the Boston-based Polaroid corporation, which specialized in the use of polarization technology in such items as glasses, lamps, ski goggles, and windows.

In 1939, the corporation moved from Boston to Cambridge.

Land drove creation of UROP

Land held the title of Visiting Institute Professor from 1956 until his death in 1991. In 1957, Land's famous "Generation of Greatness" speech for the Arthur D. Little chemistry lecture helped to inspire the creation of UROP.

"I believe each incoming freshman must be started at once on his own research project if we are to preserve his secret dream of greatness and make it come true," Land said.

In 1968 Land established a trust fund and dedicated its income to educational development at MIT. The fund paid for the development of the UROP program, established 1969.

Land's influence and support of undergraduate research also lives on in the Eloranta Undergraduate Research Fellowships. The fellowships were a 1969 gift from Land to the Institute in memory of Peter J.