It started in the 1870s, with a man named Leland Stanford (link: was convinced that, at some point in the gallop, all four of the horse’s legs simultaneously leave the ground. His claim was met with skepticism, as horses are huge creatures that they surely must have at least some contact to the ground at all times. Certain of his cause, Stanford made a bet that he could provide indisputable evidence of its veracity.

Stanford recruited photographer Eadweard Muybridge to help him in his mission. Muybridge, however, realized that camera technology at the time was far too clumsy to capture the horse at the exact time all its hooves leave the ground. Far from deterring him, he employed a completely new photography technique to accomplish his goal. He set up a series of 24 cameras side by side (link taking a picture right after the other, capturing the famed racehorse called Sallie Gardner in 24 different stages of the gallop. This not only proved Stanford’s claim—Sallie Gardner could indeed be seen with all four legs off the ground, creating the illusion that she was flying—but essentially created a 24-frame animated film. Intrigued by his new technique, he also invented the Zoopractiscope, a motion picture machine for viewing said film.

Although the eccentric Muybridge remains virtually unknown by the public, his contribution to film history is undeniable and many influential people in the industry admire his genius. Currently, Gary Oldman is planning to make a movie about the story of Muybridge and the flying horse. Ralph Fiennes and Benedict Cumberbatch are reportedly attached to the project.

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