Joseph Plateau: Google Doodle Honors Belgian Scientist Who Invented Phenakistiscope - The Beginning of Motion Picture

Today's Google Doodle celebrates Joseph Plateau's 218th birthday, but who was he and why is he famous?

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau was a Belgian scientist known for inventing the phénakistoscope. His invention created the illusion of a moving image, which led to the birth of cinema.

Born in Brussels on October 14, 1801, Plateau studied law before becoming a scientist, researching physiological optics. Plateau was interested in the effect of light and color on the human retina and his work resulted in him becoming one of the best-known Belgian scientists of the 19th century.

For his doctoral dissertation, Plateau explored how images form on the retina, such as their duration, color, and intensity. In 1832, based on this research, Plateau invented a stroboscopic device that became known as a phénakistoscope.

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A Google Doodle depicting a phénakisticope to honor Joseph Plateau. Olivia Huynh, Google

The word phénakistoscope comes from Greek and means "to deceive the eye," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The phénakistoscope had twwo discs that rotated in opposite directions, one with evenly spaced windows and the second had a series of images of a dancer. With the discs rotating at the right speed, the device created the illusion of the dancer moving.

Plateau's invention is credited with leading to the birth of cinema, as it proved that still images could create the illusion of movement. In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge created The Horse In Motion which depicts a horse galloping, and is considered to be the oldest film, according to Heads Up. It was created using multiple still images following Plateau's concept.

In 1888, French inventor Louis Le Prince created Roundhay Garden Scene, which is just 2.11 seconds long. However, it holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest surviving film.

Plateau later became blind but continued to be a scientist. Plateau believed his blindness was caused by an earlier experiment that saw him stare directly at the sun for 25 seconds, but according to Forbes, doctors now believe he suffered from a case of uveitis.

Plateau worked as a professor of experimental physics at Ghent University. His son, Felix Plateau, and his son-in-law, Gustaaf Van der Mensbrugghe, helped him.

Though he known as the father of film, Plateau is also responsible for his discovery of the "instability of cylindrical fluid jets bound by surface tension," according to MIT. This theory is called the Plateau-Rayleigh Instability and is named after Lord John Rayleigh, who proved Plateau's theory.

The Google Doodle was created by Olivia Huynh, inspired and helped by Diana Tran and Tom Tabanao. The animation was created using just 12 images, just like the earliest phénakisticope. Huynh said about Plateau, "I think it's a good message to show that you can be interested in lots of things, like science, math, art, invention, craft, and that they can overlap," according to Google.