Joseph Antoine Ferdinand
Plateau (October 14, 1801 – September 15,
1883) was a Belgian physicist.
Brussels, he studied
at the University of
Liège (Liège), where he
graduated as a doctor of physical and mathematical sciences in
1829. In 1835, he was appointed Professor of
experimental physics in Ghent University.
In 1832, Plateau invented an early stroboscopic
device, the "phenakistoscope
". It consisted of two disks,
one with small equidistant radial windows, through which the viewer
could look, and another containing a sequence of images. When the
two disks rotated at the correct speed, the synchronization of the
windows and the images created an animated effect. The projection
of stroboscopic photographs, creating the illusion of motion,
eventually led to the development of cinema
Plateau also studied the phenomena of capillary action
and surface tension
et théorique des liquides soumis aux seules forces
, 1873). The
of existence of a minimal surface
with a given boundary is
named for him. He conducted extensive studies of soap films and
formulated Plateau's laws
describe the structures formed by such films in foams.
Fascinated by the persistence of luminous impressions on the
, he performed an experiment in which
he gazed directly into the sun
for 25 seconds.
Consequently, he lost his eyesight later in his life. He died in Ghent.
References and further reading