One of the first people to try and recreate motion in images was a photographer called Eadweard Muybridge. In 1872 he produced a series of images of a man riding a horse. The images helped capture what is impossible to see with a human eye.
before this point animation had been restricted to inventions such as;
Thaumatrope: this is a piece of card with an image draw on both sides with string at either side, when twisted fast the images seem to blend together.
Praxinoscope: This is a drum with images on the inside of the drum being reflected by mirrors in the centre of the drum to give the illusion of movement.
Zoetrope: Invented by William George Horner. The views look through slots cut into the side of the drum which is spun round quickly and a continuous strip of images is arranged inside the drum. The speed the drum is at blurs the slots into one viewing window and helped give motion to static images.
LORD, peter & SIBLEY, Brian (2010). Cracking Animation. London: Thames & Hudson. p20-21.
Here is 2 pages from the book Cracking animation by Peter Lord & Brian Sibley. Here they are explaining all the different types of motion animation inventions prior to Eadweard Muybridge's 1872 photo sequence of the horse. (CLICK PAGE IMAGES TO ENLARGE TO READ)