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date: 18 February 2020


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell


An optical toy consisting of a disc of cardboard with different images on each side that can be rapidly revolved through use of two twisted strings. As the disc spins the images appear to merge, an effect similar to that experienced when a coin is spun. The Thaumatrope was produced as a toy by John Ayrton Paris in London in 1826, and is sometimes also referred to as the Faraday Wheel after the British scientist Michael Faraday who investigated the principle of persistence of vision upon which the illusion is based. Optical toys of this sort were popular during the Victorian era and are considered important precursors to the development of the early cinema. See also phenakistiscope; praxinoscope; series photography; zoetrope.