Phenakistoscope disc showing a family scene, c 1830.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This optical toy was invented by the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau (1801-1883). It is held with the printed side of the disc facing a mirror. When the disc is spun, the viewer looks at its reflection through the apertures on the disc's circumference and the drawings appear to move. The Phenakistoscope could only accomodate one viewer at a time. Later optical toys such as the Zoetrope allowed several people to view simultaneously.