Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau:


The Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau invented a device that enabled moving images.

Without the Phenakistiskop the cinema would not exist. For his research, he looked long into the sun - with terrible consequences.
One of the crucial early machinery that puts rigidity and movement into motion is the phenakistiscope.

The apparatus was invented by the Belgian-Walloon physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau back in 1832.

For a birthday, Google Plateau is dedicating a new Google Doodle.


Plateau, born on October 14, 1801 in Brussels, had worked as a math teacher with the visual perception of human beings and written about it in French.

That was unheard of at the time, research was usually written in Latin. In 1829 Plateau also earned his doctorate with a French-language work, the first of the University of Li├Ęge.

His doctoral thesis deals with the perception of motion in moving images. For his research Plateau dealt with stroboscopes, with the help of which two images merge into a seemingly plastic image.

And he studied reaction of the eye to the sun, even by looking directly into it for a long time, more than 30 seconds.

In 1832 Plateau came up with the idea "to feed the stroboscope with 16 drawings of a dancer, who were always shifted by one movement phase against each other and after sixteen phases flowed back into the starting position.

" He called the device Phenakistiskop. On a rotatable scabbard 16 pictures were painted, which differed slightly.

There were lines between the pictures. When the disc is rotated, the bars appear to overlap and the dancers begin to move. The illusion of movement is perfect, almost true. 16 times a second.

Joseph Plateau later taught physics and astronomy in Ghent, and he built other apparatuses. After 1843 he went blind, glancing into the sun to study and describe retinal im- ages on his retina had destroyed his retina.

He continued researching and writing, setting up rules on the structure of soap bubbles, among other things. In 1883 he died in Ghent at the age of 81 years.

As early as 1833, the research experiment turned into an apparatus for fairs, the Wonder Wheel, the wheel of life, the Phantaskop.

The following year, an English mathematician builds a similar apparatus that resembles a rotary drum.

On the inside, pictures are painted that begin to run when the drum is turned and show movement, such as a horse and rider jumping over an obstacle.

In the 1860s, the device became popular under the name Zoetrop in the United States. It is considered as the Phenakistiskop as one of the precursors of the cinema.

The American director Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather") called his company "American Zoetrope", he had previously received such a device.

The first silent film cameras actually use 16 frames per second like the phenakistiscope, which is why today the silent movie moves seem strange to us.

Only later did it become 24 frames per second. Whether that's right with the truth, 24 times a second, but more than ever is questionable.

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