Joseph Plateau isn’t exactly a household name. Few Belgian physicists and mathematicians from the 1800s are. But without him, modern entertainment would be significantly different—and less fun. For this, he earned the honor of being celebrated by Monday’s Google Doodle.
Plateau researched visual perception, which led to the phénakistiscope, the world’s first animation device—and the first time a moving image was ever shown. That paved the way for the motion picture industry and all of the movies you’ve loved throughout your life.
Plateau, born on Oct. 14, 1801, initially studied law, but eventually followed science as a career path, where he found fame.
He created his most famous invention in 1832, putting together two discs that rotated in opposite directions. One was filled with small windows, while the other had several pictures of a dancer . When the discs were turned at the right speed, the images merged and the dancer appeared to be in motion.
Not all of Plateau’s experiments were quite as brilliant as the moving image, though. He once gazed directly into the sun for 25 seconds and lost his sight later in life. He died in 1883.
Today’s Google Doodle is actually a series of Doodles. You’ll see a different one on your desktop computer than you will on your mobile device. And if you go to Google’s app, you’ll see another altogether—the first time the company has used different artwork for different platforms.
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