A History of Optics From Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth by Olivier Darrigol

By Olivier Darrigol

This publication is a long term historical past of optics, from early Greek theories of imaginative and prescient to the nineteenth-century victory of the wave concept of sunshine. It exhibits how gentle progressively grew to become the significant entity of a site of physics that now not observed the functioning of the attention; it retraces the following pageant among medium-based and corpuscular techniques of sunshine; and it information the nineteenth-century flourishing of mechanical ether theories. the writer significantly exploits and occasionally completes the extra really good histories that experience flourished some time past few years. The ensuing synthesis brings out the actors' long term reminiscence, their dependence on large cultural shifts, and the evolution of disciplinary divisions and connections. Conceptual precision, textual concision, and ample representation make the ebook available to a huge number of readers attracted to the origins of contemporary optics.

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Witelo’s three-century old exposition of Alhazen’s optics was Kepler’s main point of departure. A series of subtitles indicated that this volume was intended as the optical part of astronomy, that it contained a solution to the paradox of the apparent diameter of the moon as observed in solar eclipses, and that it offered a new theory of vision (see Fig. 16). The above-given reconstruction of Kepler’s itinerary is based on the historical remarks included in the Paralipomena. This itinerary and the resulting theory of vision did not imply any precise concept of light besides Alhazen’s notion of rays issuing from every point of an illuminated body.

In an otherwise conservative discussion of the functioning of the eye, Porta compared this organ to a camera obscura: Hence Philosophers and opticians clearly see how vision takes place, and the question of intromission, which has been so much debated since antiquity, is thus solved; and no other artifice will ever demonstrate it. The representation [idolum] is introduced through the pupil, which plays the role of the hole in the window, and the part of the crystalline sphere situated in the middle of the eye plays the role of the screen: I know this will very much please ingenious minds.

Namely, the object was seen in the air between the eye and the sphere. Porta further indicated (in the case of a lens) that a picture of the object appeared on a piece of paper placed at the locus of the illusion. 49 The ability of glass balls to concentrate light and heat had long been known as the principle of burning spheres and it had been the object of numerous theoretical studies, the best of which probably was Alhazen’s. Kepler carefully studied the intersection of rays after crossing the sphere and showed that they formed what we now call a caustic, namely a surface on which the density of rays is infinitely larger than elsewhere.

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