I was trying to research about optical toys. My inspiration for that was a zoetrope that I saw in Museum of Childhood. A zoetrope is one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion. There are many types of optical toys except for zoetrope such as: Praxinoscopes, strobe lights, zoopraxiscopes, phonotropes, thaumatropes and phenakistoscopes, to mention some. All of them are based on the same principle: chronostasis (from Greek Χρόνος-time and Στάση-stop) or temporal illusion.

Euclid, the father of geometry, was the first to notice the capability of human eye called persistence of vision. If in 1 sec the human eye sees up to 12-20 static images of a moving object, then it can’t distinguish between the static images. Thus at this time our eyes believe that we actually see an ongoing image in motion.

Isaac Newton, centuries later, used the same idea in order to create the famous “Newton Disc” (1642), which is a disc with seven segments in rainbow colours. When the disc is rotated, the colors fade to white; In this way Isaac Newton demonstrated that white light is a combination of the seven different colours found in a rainbow.

In general, optical toys inspired the method of image presentation that later led to modern cinema and television.

Zoetrope particularly was initially developed for parlor entertainment and as a novelty item and it has its roots in early 1800s.

The Belgian physicist, Joseph Plateau (1801) invented the phenakistoscope in 1832, that was a stroboscopic device with a disc which is spinning around a handle. Plateau illustrated himself some of the discs that are creating some grotesques and/or phychedelic images rather than mundane and common.


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