Who Invented the Zoetrope?

Do you like watching animations? If yes, let’s look at the history of animation and how it has developed over the years.

Through the history of animation, we will learn more about the zoetrope, how it was invented, and its contribution to the animation industry.

Emile Cohl, a French artist, is the father of animation. Emile was a cartoonist who developed his first animation from crude stick figures in the early 19th century.

When viewers viewed the still images in a zoetrope, the images appeared to be in motion.

The zoetrope came into use in the film industry for close to half a century before the development of computerized animation.

What is a zoetrope, and who invented it?

A zoetrope is a device that creates an illusion of motion by displaying several still images or drawings in a cylindrical container.

The container has slits cut vertically on the sides through which the images are viewed. 

It has a row of images which when spun, appear to be in motion.

Zoetropes are used to make animated GIFs and the streaming of videos.

The zoetrope was first invented in 1834 by William Horner, a British mathematician. He named the device Daetatelum but Pierre Desvignes, a French inventor, later called it zoetrope.

The name zoetrope is derived from two Greek words, zoo meaning animal and trope meaning things which turn.

The term zoetrope, therefore, means animals that turn. It describes the illusion of motion in the still images as the device moves in a circular motion.

Other works by William Horner

William George Horner was a mathematician. He wrote widely on differential equations and discovered the number and approximation theory.

William was also an excellent school administrator. He contributed extensively in the field of education and the animation industry.

How does the zoetrope work?

The zoetrope was made of a cylindrical drum with an axis at the center.

The inner surface of the container had still images all around. The sides of the cylindrical drum had many slits which were equally spaced.

When the axis was spun, the drum moved in a circular motion creating an impression that the images on the wall were in motion.

The movement of the pictures appears more natural when the spinning rate is high (see the video below)

What other devices preceded the zoetrope?

Animation dates back to the 17th century. Before the invention of the zoetrope in the 18thcentury, other devices were used.

The most common was the magic lantern, Thaumatrope, and Phenakistoscope. The magic lantern cast a shadow on some parts of the image, causing a suggestion of movement.

The thaumatrope used two still pictures to create a joined image. The phenakistoscope created fluid motion using still pictures.

Other devices invented after the zoetrope for animation

The zoetrope dominated the animation industry for a long time.

The praxinoscope and flipbooks were developed later before the computerization of animation.

The praxinoscope was made by attaching a strip of paper with twelve frames to a cylinder. When the praxinoscope started spinning, the mirrors at the center showed a single image in motion.

 The flipbook, also known as a kineograph, is a booklet with consequential pictures that gradually change from one page to the next. 

When viewing the pages in quick progression, images appear to be in motion.

What made the zoetrope popular for long?

The zoetrope created a charming visual effect in the memory of viewers. It is used for making animated GIFS and videos in technology.

It is easy to construct a zoetrope and adjust it to different spin speeds.

When spinning is done more rapidly, the images on the zoetrope appear more real visually.

When incorporated in the current technologies, the zoetrope helps create videos of still but closely related pictures.

Animation is a popular form of entertainment. The zoetrope made animation more lively and more informative.

It remains relevant even in the present technology where it is adopted in making videos and GIFs for entertainment.

 Closing Thoughts

Without a doubt, William George Horner has contributed significantly to society.

In the entertainment industry, he made animation more real.

In mathematics, he discovered two crucial theories in Algebra and differential equations.

William was also a leader and served as a school administrator.