Thaumatrope - Dayton History Museum Store
Thaumatropes are the first of many optical instruments developed to study persistence of vision. They typically consist of a cardboard disc with thread attached on the left and right sides. On each side of a round piece of card stock is a picture, painting or illustration. The images are designed and placed so that when the disc is spun by rolling the threads back and forth between the fingers and thumbs. The faster the disc is spun back and forth, the more the two pictures appear as one!

The earliest known example of a thaumatrope is a bird perched inside a birdcage. At least it looks like a bird is perched inside a birdcage when it is spun. On one side of the disc is a picture of the bird sitting on a wooden perch and on the other side of the disc is the birdcage. Again, when the disc is spun by rolling the threads (called "handles"), these two images appear superimposed on top of one another.

This simple optical experiment tool heralded the beginning in the study of the persistence of vision effect. It is also the forerunner of other experimental devices that explore this effect, which is also known as the Phi phenomenon.

Item #003756