Wonder Turners and Other Optical Oddities: A history of 19th century inventions and their influence on the perception of time, motion and attention.
Early recording devices, inventions and optical toys, such as the thaumatrope and the zoetrope, demonstrated natural causes for optical phenomena and had a direct influence on our understanding of visual perception. In this paper, I highlight influential inventors, scientists and artists who contributed to the field of optics, chronography, and subsequent methods of visualizing time and movement. These investigations advanced our understanding of optics, and impacted the study of time, motion and attention. Optical toys, also known as philosophical toys, presaged the use of media and technology in education. This exploration into their history will help steer my future research into the use of traditional animation techniques in education. In addition to optics, much can be learned from these toys. The immersive, hands-on nature of optical toys make them especially appealing and provides connections to a variety of subjects and curriculum. Optical toys provide an opportunity for students to participate in creating both the form, by making the toy itself, and the content or story that the toy tells. By placing them in their historical context, optical toys provide a window into the roots of children's media culture and its relationship to education.