Origins of 'Persistence of Vision' or 'Retention of Image'
- the phenomena which, it is often noted can be used to explain
how motion pictures work - can be traced back to experiments
by Newton, but it became firmly established by Belgian scientist
Joseph Plateau in 1829.
The early Scientific Toys which provided animated
scenes, through to modern cinema all rely upon Persistence
of Vision to achieve their aim of fooling the brain into believing
what it is understanding is moving rather than a series of
The first of such toys was the 'Thaumatrope'
- a small disc held by pieces of string. One either side of
the disc was drawn and image which seemed to superimpose onto
each other when the disc was spun. The invention of this device
is often credited to astronomer Sir John Herschel but it was
well known London Physicist Dr. Paris who made it popular.
Examples of the kind of images used on the
thaumotrope include a tree with bare branches and on the reverse,
its foliage - when spun the tree appeared to be full of leaves;
or a bird and a cage - in this instance the bird appeared
to be caged when the disc was spun.
Another device which illustrated this principle
was Michael Faradayís Wheel - which consisted of two matching
wheels on the same axis with spokes around the perimeter.
When spun together in alternate directions the wheel further
away appeared to move slower or often stop when viewed through
the closer wheel.
physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, inspired by the
work of Faraday and Peter Mark Roget (Compiled of the Thesaurus)
developed these ideas further and adapted the wheel into a
toy. This involved two discs mounted on the same axis, the
first disc had slots around the edge and the second had drawings
with successive action.
When spun and viewed in a mirror through the
slots the pictures remained the in the position but the figure
gave the impression of movement.
This device was given the name Phenakistoscope
although it received other names when marketed including the
Phantasmascope and the Fantoscope.
Simultaneously but independently Austrian geometrician
Simon Ritter Von Stampfer produced an almost identical device
which he called the Stroboscope.
1834, William George Horner proposed a more convenient device
based on Plateauís Phenakistoscope which eliminated the need
for a mirror and allowed several people to view the device
at one time.
Hornerís idea was to take shape in the form
of drum with an open top into which was placed a hand drawn
sequence of pictures on a strip of paper. The pictures were
placed around the inside of the edge of the drum and could
be viewed through slots in the outside of the drum.
The images gave the illusion of movement as
the drum was spun. Horner referred to his device as his Daedalum.
Strangely the Dadalum was almost forgotten for over thirty
years until 1887, at which point it was patented almost simultaneously
by William F. Lincoln in America who gave it the name Zoetrope,
and in England by M. Bradley.