The Google Doodle today is an animation of a famous study of horses in motion. The photographer, Eadweard J. Muybridge, is best known for this work. Muybridge was engaged by race horse owner and breeder Leland Stanford. Artists had depicted horses running with all four legs off the ground. Stamford, a californian business man and horse breeder, wanted proof of this locomotion. Muybridge deployed 24 cameras to take detailed film sequences capturing the motion of horses legs throughout the galloping cycle. He produced a film strip that showed the whole range of leg positions.
Muybridge did his work for Stamford in 1872. The sequence he produced proved that all four legs did indeed leave the ground at once. Artists had depicted the legs streched out to the front and behind when this happened. Muybridge showed that the legs were all tucked up under the body at the time they were all off the ground. The position is shown in the Google screen capture above in the first column.
Muybridge was born in Kingston on Thames, UK, on 9th April 1830. He later lived in the United States. While recouperating from a serious stage coach accident he became a committed photographer. He initially focused on landscapes establishing his career as a photographer. After his success with the horse film sequences he continued to investigate human and animal movement. His work was associated with academic papers and popular books. He died of a heart attack in 1904.
His work on the film sequences is widely regarded as a precursor to modern videography. Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscope during the course of his work on movement. The moving-sequence invention was one of the earliest attempts to animate film into moving pictures. His early popular insights into movement in film are said to have contributed to the later developments leading to motion pictures and eventually cinema.