5 Objects That Changed Our Perspective

From art history to the final frontier, here are five things which changed how we see the world forever

By Google Arts & Culture

The Blue MarbleNASA

From art to astrophysics, human endeavour is about discovering new perspectives. Here's a list of 5 innovations from across disciplines which have changed how we see our world...

Battle of San Romano (1436 - 1440) by Paolo UccelloUffizi Gallery

1. Linear Perspective in Painting

Ever looked at pre-Renaissance paintings? They look a little flat, two-dimensional. This can make for great portraits, but wouldn't it be interesting if a picture could be made '3D', to have its own 'depth'? Something we take for granted in pictures now was once a miraculous innovation.

Using a clever device which included a picture with a hole in it, Florentine artist and architect Brunelleschi proved that 'vanishing point' lines could be used to make a picture resemble how we see the world.

This painting by Uccello, one of the first artists to utilize Brunelleschi's technique, shows vanishing point perspective in its early, rather crude instance. It's easy to forget that such a simple trick wasn't around forever, and its invention changed how we see.

Animal Locomotion (1887) by Eadweard J. MuybridgeThe J. Paul Getty Museum

2. Muybridge's Horse Photos

Eadweard Muybridge: maybe the first person to change the world simply by winning a bet. Railway mogul Leland Stanford wanted to prove that a horse lifted all four hooves off the ground when galloping. The feet were too blurry to see with the naked eye, so he hired a photographer.

Muybridge got the job, and with Stanford's funding he invented cameras with rapid-fire shutter speeds, capturing many frames per second like never before. He spent his life photographing horses, birds, and humans, and changed how we see the bodies that inhabit our world.

Viewing the frames in quick succession, by use of a spinning 'zoopraxiscope' which Muybridge invented, even caused the illusion that the horse was moving. Thus, it could be said that Muybridge inadvertently invented cinema!

Galileo's telescopeMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza

3. Galileo's Telescope

Few people have influenced our perspective on ourselves and our world more than Galileo Galilei, the scientist and astronomer who lived from 1564 to 1642 in Italy. His studies of speed, velocity, projectiles, and even relativity, gave us some of our best early insights into the physical universe.

Though he didn't invent the telescope - he'd heard about similar instruments being made in the Netherlands - the model he built allowed him unprecedented views of the stars. He even calculated the height of the mountains of the moon!

The Hubble Space Telescope by NASANASA

4. The Hubble Telescope

Taking Galileo's vision and running with it, the Hubble Telescope, launched into orbit in 1990, remains our most valuable tool for observing our universe.

Directed out into deep space, Hubble uses ultraviolet and electromagnetic rays, as well as complex telescopic mirrors, to capture high definition images of suns, planets, and nebulae thousands of light years away.

Most Detailed Image of the Crab Nebula (2005-12-01) by NASA/ESA/JPL/Arizona State Univ.NASA

Much like Brunelleschi, who wanted to look beyond the surface in paintings, the Hubble telescope looks far past the dome of our sky to give us a mind-boggling glimpse of our universe and our place in it. It truly is a matter of perspective!

Astrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari Astrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari (dated A.H. 690/ A.D. 1291) by ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-MuzaffariThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

5. The Astrolabe

Going back in time a little, we can appreciate early attempts at locating human beings with reference to the stars. The astrolabe, developed and refined in the medieval Islamic world to guide travellers to Mecca, is a hugely important object in human history. 

Sukkah Decoration (c. 1775) by Israel David LuzzattoThe Jewish Museum, New York

Its complex dials allowed navigators to plot their position on the surface of the globe in relation to the positions of celestial bodies, a kind of dialogue between the earth and the heavens.  

Views from the terrace ot the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2017-09-19) by TrashhandGuggenheim Bilbao

Want to see more new perspectives? Check out these 11 Views from the Top

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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