Google celebrates birthday of physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau was instrumental to the birth of cinema.
Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau invented the phénakistiscope which created an illusion of a moving image which was pivotal to the birth and growth of motion picture.(Google/Google Doodles)
Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau invented the phénakistiscope which created an illusion of a moving image which was pivotal to the birth and growth of motion picture.(Google/Google Doodles)
Updated on Oct 14, 2019 01:24 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent

Google Doodle celebrates the 218th birthday of Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau whose research on visual perception led him to invent a device named phénakistiscope which led to the birth of cinema. phénakistiscope created an illusion of a moving image which was pivotal to the birth and growth of motion picture.

Plateau’s father was an accomplished artist who specialized in painting flowers. Initially, Plateau studied law but later studied physiological optics, emphasizing particularly on the effect of light and color on the human retina which made him one of the best-known scientists of the 19th century.

Born in 1801, his dissertation focussed on how images form on the retina, noting their exact duration, color, and intensity. He created a stroboscopic device in 1832 based on these conclusions in which two discs rotated in opposite directions. The first disc had been filled with small windows, evenly spaced in a circle and the other disc has pictures of a dancer in a series. The images seemed to merge creating an illusion of a dancer in motion when the discs turned exactly at the right speed.

Plateau’s productive career continued as a professor of experimental physics at Ghent University with the help of colleagues that included his son Felix Plateau and his son-in-law Gustaaf Van der Mensbrugghe despite him losing his vision in the later years of his life.

Today’s Google Doodle was inspired from Plateau’s discs which reflect his style with different imagery and themes in them on different device platforms.

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