George Horner, 1834
| How it works | What
became of it | Video Demonstrations
Sources | Side View
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The zoetrope was invented in 1834 by
William Horner, who originally called it a Daedalum ("wheel
of the Devil"). It
was based on Plateau's phenakistoscope, but was more convenient
since it did not require a viewing mirror and allowed more than
one person to use it at the same time. Horner's invention
strangely became forgotten for nearly thirty years until 1867, when it became
patented in England by M. Bradley, and in America by William F.
Lincoln. Lincoln renamed the Daedalum, giving it the name
of "zoetrope," or "wheel of life."
The zoetrope is the third major optical toy, after the
thaumatrope and phenakistoscope, that uses the persistence of
motion principle to create an illusion of motion. It consists of a simple
drum with an open top, supported on a
central axis. A sequence of hand-drawn pictures on strips of paper
are placed around the inner bottom of the drum. Slots are
equal distances around the outer surface of the drum, just above
where the picture strips were to be positioned.
To create an
illusion of motion, the drum is spun; the faster the rate of
spin, the smoother the progression of images. A viewer can
look through the wall of the zoetrope from any point around it, and see a
rapid progression of images. Because of its design, more
than one person could use the zoetrope at the same time.
became of it:
When the praxinoscope was invented by Emile Reynaud in 1877,
interest in the zoetrope declined. The praxinoscope
offered a clearer, brighter image to viewers than the zoetrope
could. In 1889, George Eastman invented flexible
photographic film, which allowed a lot of film to be held on one
reel. Whereas zoetrope picture strips were limited to
about 15 pictures per strip, devices using reels of the new
flexible film could present longer animations to viewers.
Finally, in 1895, modern cinema was born. Once moving
pictures could be projected on a large screen, optical toys such
as the zoetrope became used less and less frequently.
Links to video demonstrations:
(requires RealPlayer G2 or higher)
connection (T1/LAN/DSL/cable) only
higher video quality in a downloadable file
Video for Windows
Biographical information for William G.
How to build your own zoetrope
(downloadable PDF manual)
to see a side view of the zoetrope, showing
its cylindrical shape.