Animation is a series of still drawings that, when viewed in rapid succession, gives the impression of a moving picture. The word animation derives from the Latin words anima meaning life, and animare meaning to breathe life into. Throughout history, people have employed various techniques to give the impression of moving pictures. Cave drawings depicted animals with their legs overlapping so that they appeared to be running. The properties of animation can be seen in Asian puppet shows, Greek bas-relief, Egyptian funeral paintings, medieval stained glass, and modern comic strips.
In 1640, a Jesuit monk named Althanasius Kircher invented a "magic lantern" that projected enlarged drawings on a wall. A fellow Jesuit, Gaspar Schott, developed this idea further by creating a straight strip of pictures, a sort of early filmstrip, that could be pulled across the lantern's lens. Schott further modified the lantern until it became a revolving disk. A century later, in 1736, a Dutch scientist named Pieter Van Musschenbroek created a series of drawings of windmill vanes that, when projected in rapid succession, gave the illusion of the windmill circling around and around.
The magic lantern became a popular form of entertainment. Traveling entertainers, visiting the villages and towns of Europe, included it in their shows. In London, the Swiss-born physician and scholar Peter Mark Roget, most famous for compiling the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, was fascinated by the scientific phenomenon at play and wrote an essay entitled "Persistence of Vision with Regard to Moving Objects" that was widely read and used as a basis for subsequent inventions. One of the first was the thaumatrope, developed in the 1820s by John Paris, also an English doctor. The thaumatrope was simply a small disk with a different image drawn on either side. Strings were knotted onto two edges so that the disk could be spun. As the disk twirled around, the two images appeared to blend. For example, a monkey on one side appeared to sit inside the cage on the opposite side.
The next major innovation was the phenakistoscope, created by Joseph Plateau, a Belgian physicist and doctor. Plateau's contribution was a flat disk perforated with evenly spaced slots. Figures were drawn around the edges, depicting successive movements. A stick attached to the back allowed the disk to be held at eye level in front of a mirror. The viewer then spun the disk and watched the reflection of the figures pass through the slits, once again giving the illusion of movement.