Before there were Vines of inanimate objects coming alive, before CompuServe created the first animated GIF, before there were motion pictures, even before there were flip books, there was Joseph Plateau and his phenakistoscope.

In 1832, the Belgian physicist invented the first device that gave the illusion of a moving image, popularly considered to be the first mechanism for animation. The earliest evidence of trying to capture motion in a still image can be found in paleolithic cave paintings and the principle behind the phenakistoscope was originally discovered by the Greek mathematician, Euclid, and then later developed by Sir Isaac Newton, but Plateau was the first to actually put it into practice.


The phenakistoscope was a device that used a spinning disc attached to a vertical handle with a series of drawings around the disc that showed the different phases of animation. A slit was cut into the disc between each image. The viewer stood in front of a mirror and spun the disc while looking through the slits at its reflection. The slits kept the images from blurring together and, instead, appeared as a single moving picture.

You can see more of Plateau’s original animations here.




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Category: Spotlight