Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History
(by decade and year)

The Pre-1900s
(to 1889)

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s | 2020s
Pre-1900s (to 1889), Pre-1900s (1890-1899)

The Pre-1900s (to 1889)
Event and Significance
300s B.C.
The Greek Aristotle was the first to observe and describe how he saw a light after-effect: a persistent image (that slowly faded away) after he gazed into the sun.
65 B.C.
The Roman poet and philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus described the principle of persistence of vision - the optical effect of continuous motion produced when a series of sequential images were displayed, with each image lasting only momentarily.
130 A.D.
The Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy of Alexandria discovered (and proved) Lucretius' principle of persistence of vision.
late 1790s
Belgian optician and showman Etienne Gaspard Robertson's Phantasmagoria - a kind of amusement 'horror show' designed to frighten audiences that became popular in Europe. He produced the show with a 'magic lantern' on wheels (which he called a Phantascope or Fantascope), usually out of view of the audience, to project ghostly-looking, illusory images that changed shape and size, onto smoke or onto a translucent screen.
The Frenchman Peter Mark Roget (famed as the author of Roget's Thesaurus) rediscovered the persistence of vision principle.
The Belgian scientist Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, who had studied the phenomenon of persistence of vision, developed a spindle viewer or spinning wheel called a phenakistoscope (aka Fantascope or Magic Wheel), the first device that allowed pictures to appear to move - and considered the precursor of an animated film (or movie). [The device was simultaneously invented by Austrian Simon von Stampfer.]
William George Horner invented the first zoetrope (which he called a daedalum or daedatelum), based upon Plateau's phenakistoscope. It was a very crude, mechanical form of a motion picture 'projector' that consisted of a drum that contained a set of still images. When it was turned in a circular fashion, it created the illusion of motion.
The zoetrope, another animation toy, was invented by French inventor Pierre Desvignes.
British photographer Eadweard Muybridge took the first successful photographs of motion, producing his multiple image sequences analyzing human and animal locomotion. California senator Leland Stanford commissioned Muybridge to determine whether the 4 legs of a galloping horse left the ground at the same time, so he set up 24 still cameras along a racetrack. As a horse ran by the cameras, the horse broke strings which were hooked up to each camera's shutter, thereby activating the shutter of each camera, capturing the image and exposing the film. Soon after, the photographs were projected in succession with a viewing device called a Zoogyroscope (aka Zoopraxiscope). Viewing the photos in sequence comprised a primitive movie.
The praxinoscope (which refined the long-established zoetrope with mirrors rather than slots) was invented and patented by the Frenchman Emile Reynaud. In 1892, Reynaud opened his Theatre Optique in Paris with a theatrical form of his 'movie or animation' device designed for public performances. The device reflected out, in long segments, the sequential, hand-painted drawings that were on long broad strips inside the drum.
Etienne Jules Marey in France developed a chronophotographic camera, shaped like a gun and referred to as a "shotgun" camera, that could take twelve successive pictures or images per second.
Pioneering British inventor William Friese-Greene collaborated with John Rudge to make an enhanced magic lantern, one of the earliest motion picture cameras and projectors, termed a Biophantascope, to project photographic plates in rapid succession. He claimed to have sent Thomas Edison (who denied receiving anything) details of his camera designs, but received no replies. In 1890, Friese-Greene received a patent for his 'chronophotographic' camera, capable of taking up to ten photographs per second using perforated celluloid film, but his experiments met with limited success, unlike Edison. However, he became the first man to ever witness moving pictures on a screen.
Daeida, the wife of real-estate developer Harvey Henderson Wilcox, named her ranch in Cahuenga Valley "Hollywood". [Another origin, though probably inaccurate, of the "Hollywood" name may be from the toyon, popularly known as California holly.]
Nitrate celluloid film (a chemical combination of gun cotton and gum camphor) was invented by American clergyman Hannibal W. Goodwin.
Edison filed his first caveat (a Patent Office document) in which he declared his work on future inventions, anticipating filling out a complete patent application for his Kinetoscope and Kinetograph (a motion picture camera).
George Eastman introduced the lightweight, inexpensive "Kodak" camera, using paper photographic film wound on rollers, and registered the trademarked name Kodak.

French inventor Louis Augustin Le Prince, "The Father of Cinematography," developed a single-lens camera which he used to make the very first moving picture sequences. The paper film moved through a camera's sprocket wheels by grabbing the film's perforations. In mid-to-late October of 1888, he shot several short sequences, including the Roundhay Garden Scene and a Leeds Bridge street scene - both among the first movies ever shot and then shown to the public. (See below)

The oldest or earliest surviving film (a sensitized 53.9mm (21/8in) wide paper roll recorded on 1885 Eastman Kodak paper-based photographic film), was a short silent (2.11 seconds) titled Roundhay Garden Scene (1888), according to Guinness World Records. It came from the camera of French inventor Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince. The film was made in mid-October 1888, in the garden of his father-in-law, Joseph Whitley in Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK, shot at 10 to 12 frames per second. However, some sources claim the earliest may be Man Walking Around a Corner (1887), also shot by Le Prince.
Henry Reichenbach developed (and patented) durable and flexible celluloid film strips (or roll film) to be manufactured by the pioneer of photographic equipment, George Eastman, and his Eastman Company.

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