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Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, Physicist Who Led to Birth of Cinema, Honoured by Google Doodle Today

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, Physicist Who Led to Birth of Cinema, Honoured by Google Doodle Today

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau's Phenakistiscope has two disks, one with small equidistant radial windows for the viewer to look, and another containing a sequence of images.

Google Doodle on Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau | Google on Monday honoured Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, who invented the phenakistiscope — one of the first forms of moving media entertainment that paved the way for the future motion picture and film industry — in 1832, with a special doodle on what would have been his 218th birth anniversary.

The doodle is a pictorial depiction of the Plateau’s genius device ‘phenakistiscope’. "Inspired by the mesmerizing animated discs, the animated Doodle art was made to reflect Plateau's style, with different imagery and themes in them on different device platforms," Google said in its description of the Doodle.

The Phenakistiscope has two disks, one with small equidistant radial windows for the viewer to look, and another containing a sequence of images. The animated effect is the result of the synchronisation of the windows and the images with the rotation of the two disks. The projection of the photos led to the development of cinema.

Born on October 14 in Brussels, Plateau was one of the first people to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image. To actualise his device, the physicist used counter-rotating disks with repeating drawn images in small increments of motion on one and regularly spaced slits in the other.

At the age of six, little Plateau was already able to read, making him a child prodigy in those times. While still in primary schools, he was particularly impressed by a lesson of physics: enchanted by the experiments he observed, he vowed to discover their secrets someday

Fascinated by the persistence of luminous impressions on the retina, Plateau performed an experiment in which he gazed directly into the sun for 25 seconds. He lost his eyesight later in his life and attributed the loss to this experiment. However, his vision loss could also be due to chronic uveitis.

Plateau went to the University of Liège (Liège), where he graduated as a doctor of physical and mathematical sciences in 1829. In the same year, he submitted his doctoral thesis to his mentor Adolphe Quetelet for advice. It contained only 27 pages but formulated a great number of fundamental conclusions. It contained the first results of his research into the effect of colours on the retina (duration, intensity and colour), his mathematical research into the intersections of revolving curves (locus), the observation of the distortion of moving images, and the reconstruction of distorted images through counter revolving discs (he dubbed these anorthoscopic discs).

In 1832, Plateau invented an early stroboscopic device, the "phenakistoscope", the first device to give the illusion of a moving image. It consisted of two disks, one with small equidistant radial windows, through which the viewer could look, and another containing a sequence image. When the two disks rotated at the correct speed, the synchronization of the windows and the images created an animated effect. The projection of stroboscopic photographs, creating the illusion of motion, eventually led to the development of cinema.

Plateau died in Ghent in 1883.