Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau Biography

Today Google Doodle celebrates Belgian physicist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, whose research inspired him to create a device which led to the birth of cinema.

His research on visual perception inspired him to invent a device called the phénakistiscope, which created the illusion of a moving image.

Born: October 14, 1801, Brussels, Belgium
Died: September 15, 1883, Ghent, Belgium
Children: Felix August Joseph Plateau
Education: Ghent University, University of Liège
Academic advisor: Adolphe Quetelet

He created the stroboscopic device in 1832, after his doctoral dissertation detailed how images form on the retina, noting their exact duration, color, and intensity. Though Plateau lost his vision later in life, he continued to have a productive career in science even after becoming blind.

Plateau was born in 1801 in Brussels to an artist who specialised in painting flowers. He studied law and later became one of the most-popular Belgian scientists of the nineteenth century. Till date he is remembered for his work on physiological optics, particularly for the study on the effects of light and colour on human retina. His doctoral dissertation explained how images form on the retina, how long they last, their colour and intensity.

Based on the conclusions of his study, Plateau created a stroboscopic device in 1832 with two discs fitted in opposite directions. One of the discs was filled with small windows spaced evenly in a circle. The other disc had a series of pictures of a dancer. When the two discs moved at the right speed, the images appeared to merge, and created the illusion of a dancer in motion.

Google reveals that Plateau lost his vision later in life. However, it did not stop him from having a productive career in science. He continued to work as a professor of experimental physics at Ghent University with the help of his son and son-in-law, who were also his colleagues.

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