Google Doodle on Monday celebrated the Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau 218th birthday of Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, inventor of the phénakistiscope, a device that led to the birth of cinema by creating the illusion of a moving image.
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.
Born in Brussels on this day in 1801, Plateau was the son of an accomplished artist who specialized in painting flowers. After studying law, young Plateau became one of the best-known Belgian scientists of the nineteenth century, remembered for his study of physiological optics, particularly the effect of light and color on the human retina.
Plateau’s doctoral dissertation detailed how images form on the retina, noting their exact duration, color, and intensity. Based on these conclusions, he was able to create a stroboscopic device in 1832, fitted with two discs that rotated in opposite directions. One disc was filled with small windows, evenly spaced in a circle, while the other had a series of pictures of a dancer. When both discs turned at exactly the right speed, the images seemed to merge, creating the illusion of a dancer in motion.
Though Plateau lost his vision later in life, he continued to have a productive career in science even after becoming blind, working 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.
Today Plateau is known for being one of the first people to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image.
Happy 218th birthday Joseph Plateau!