Today in History – April 23, 1867 – Zoetrope is patented. Before we had movies, there were a number of devices that took advantage of the “persistence of vision” in using flashing still images to simulate moving images. The zoetrope did this by putting the images on a strip of paper inside a cylinder with holes, or slits, cut around the side of it. Each of the images were constructed like a cell in an animation so that as the cylinder spun the user could look through the slits in the side it looks as though the images are moving. The images above are examples from zoetrope designs. Click on the image on the right to see a movie of one in action.
The predecessor of the zoetrope was invented in 1834 by William George Horner, a British Mathematician from Bristol. He called it the Daedalum which means “wheel of the devil” and this concept was actually based on Joseph Plateau’s phenakistoscope from 1831.
In 1867 the zoetrope became patented in both England and America under the name Daedalum. William F. Lincoln patented the design in the United States and renamed it the zoetrope.
For more information, see the Engineering Pathway’s educational resources on Zoetrope and modern movies or view our Entrepreneurship and Innovation Engineering Education community site.