Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light is a book by English natural philosopher Isaac Newton that was published in English in 1704 (a scholarly Latin translation appeared in 1706).The book analyzes the fundamental nature of light by means of the refraction of light with prisms and lenses, the diffraction of light by closely spaced sheets of glass, and the behaviour of color mixtures with spectral lights or pigment powders. Opticks was Newton's second major book on physical science and it is considered one of the three major works on optics during the Scientific Revolution (alongside Kepler's Astronomiae Pars Optica and Huygens' Traité de la Lumière ). Newton's name did not appear on the title page of the first edition of Opticks.
The publication of Opticks represented a major contribution to science, different from but in some ways rivalling the Principia . Opticks is largely a record of experiments and the deductions made from them, covering a wide range of topics in what was later to be known as physical optics.That is, this work is not a geometric discussion of catoptrics or dioptrics, the traditional subjects of reflection of light by mirrors of different shapes and the exploration of how light is "bent" as it passes from one medium, such as air, into another, such as water or glass. Rather, the Opticks is a study of the nature of light and colour and the various phenomena of diffraction, which Newton called the "inflexion" of light.
In this book Newton sets forth in full his experiments, first reported to the Royal Society of London in 1672,on dispersion, or the separation of light into a spectrum of its component colours. He demonstrates how the appearance of color arises from selective absorption, reflection, or transmission of the various component parts of the incident light.
The major significance of Newton's work is that it overturned the dogma, attributed to Aristotle or Theophrastus and accepted by scholars in Newton's time, that "pure" light (such as the light attributed to the Sun) is fundamentally white or colourless, and is altered into color by mixture with darkness caused by interactions with matter. Newton showed just the opposite was true: light is composed of different spectral hues (he describes seven — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet), and all colours, including white, are formed by various mixtures of these hues. He demonstrates that color arises from a physical property of light — each hue is refracted at a characteristic angle by a prism or lens — but he clearly states that color is a sensation within the mind and not an inherent property of material objects or of light itself. For example, he demonstrates that a red violet (magenta) color can be mixed by overlapping the red and violet ends of two spectra, although this color does not appear in the spectrum and therefore is not a "color of light". By connecting the red and violet ends of the spectrum, he organised all colours as a color circle that both quantitatively predicts color mixtures and qualitatively describes the perceived similarity among hues.
Newton's contribution to prismatic dispersion was the first to outline multiple-prism arrays. Multiple-prism configurations, as beam expanders, became central to the design of the tunable laser more than 275 years later and set the stage for the development of the multiple-prism dispersion theory.
Opticks differs in many respects from the Principia. It was first published in English rather than in the Latin used by European philosophers, contributing to the development of a vernacular science literature. The book is a model of popular science exposition: although Newton's English is somewhat dated—he shows a fondness for lengthy sentences with much embedded qualifications—the book can still be easily understood by a modern reader. In contrast, few readers of Newton's time found the Principia accessible or even comprehensible. His formal but flexible style shows colloquialisms and metaphorical word choice.
Unlike the Principia, Opticks is not developed using the geometric convention of propositions proved by deduction from either previous propositions, lemmas or first principles (or axioms). Instead, axioms define the meaning of technical terms or fundamental properties of matter and light, and the stated propositions are demonstrated by means of specific, carefully described experiments. The first sentence of the book declares My Design in this Book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments. In an Experimentum crucis or "critical experiment" (Book I, Part II, Theorem ii), Newton showed that the color of light corresponded to its "degree of refrangibility" (angle of refraction), and that this angle cannot be changed by additional reflection or refraction or by passing the light through a coloured filter.
The work is a vade mecum of the experimenter's art, displaying in many examples how to use observation to propose factual generalisations about the physical world and then exclude competing explanations by specific experimental tests. However, unlike the Principia, which vowed Non fingo hypotheses or "I make no hypotheses" outside the deductive method, the Opticks develops conjectures about light that go beyond the experimental evidence: for example, that the physical behaviour of light was due its "corpuscular" nature as small particles, or that perceived colours were harmonically proportioned like the tones of a diatonic musical scale.
Opticks concludes with a set of "Queries." In the first edition, these were sixteen such Queries; that number was increased in the Latin edition, published in 1706, and then in the revised English edition, published in 1717/18. The first set of Queries were brief, but the later ones became short essays, filling many pages. In the fourth edition of 1730, there were 31 Queries, and it was the famous "31st Query" that, over the next two hundred years, stimulated a great deal of speculation and development on theories of chemical affinity.
These Queries, especially the later ones, deal with a wide range of physical phenomena, far transcending any narrow interpretation of the subject matter of "optics." They concern the nature and transmission of heat; the possible cause of gravity; electrical phenomena; the nature of chemical action; the way in which God created matter in "the Beginning;" the proper way to do science; and even the ethical conduct of human beings. These Queries are not really questions in the ordinary sense. They are almost all posed in the negative, as rhetorical questions. That is, Newton does not ask whether light "is" or "may be" a "body." Rather, he declares: "Is not Light a Body?" Not only does this form indicate that Newton had an answer, but that it may go on for many pages. Clearly, as Stephen Hales (a firm Newtonian of the early eighteenth century) declared, this was Newton's mode of explaining "by Query."
The Opticks was widely read and debated in England and on the Continent. The early presentation of the work to the Royal Society stimulated a bitter dispute between Newton and Robert Hooke over the "corpuscular" or particle theory of light, which prompted Newton to postpone publication of the work until after Hooke's death in 1703. On the Continent, and in France in particular, both the Principia and the Opticks were initially rejected by many natural philosophers, who continued to defend Cartesian natural philosophy and the Aristotelian version of color, and claimed to find Newton's prism experiments difficult to replicate. Indeed, the Aristotelian theory of the fundamental nature of white light was defended into the 19th century, for example by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his Farbenlehre.
Newtonian science became a central issue in the assault waged by the philosophes in the Age of Enlightenment against a natural philosophy based on the authority of ancient Greek or Roman naturalists or on deductive reasoning from first principles (the method advocated by French philosopher René Descartes), rather than on the application of mathematical reasoning to experience or experiment. Voltaire popularised Newtonian science, including the content of both the Principia and the Opticks, in his Elements de la philosophie de Newton (1738), and after about 1750 the combination of the experimental methods exemplified by the Opticks and the mathematical methods exemplified by the Principia were established as a unified and comprehensive model of Newtonian science. Some of the primary adepts in this new philosophy were such prominent figures as Benjamin Franklin, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, and James Black.
Subsequent to Newton, much has been amended. Thomas Young and Augustin-Jean Fresnel showed that the wave theory Christiaan Huygens described in his Treatise on Light (1690) could prove that colour is the visible manifestation of light's wavelength. Science also slowly came to realise the difference between perception of colour and mathematisable optics. The German poet Goethe, with his epic diatribe Theory of Colours , could not shake the Newtonian foundation - but "one hole Goethe did find in Newton's armour.. Newton had committed himself to the doctrine that refraction without colour was impossible. He therefore thought that the object-glasses of telescopes must for ever remain imperfect, achromatism and refraction being incompatible. This inference was proved by Dollond to be wrong." (John Tyndall, 1880)
Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and most influential scientists of all time. A key figure in the scientific revolution, his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.
Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.
The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 380 to about 750 nanometers. In terms of frequency, this corresponds to a band in the vicinity of 400–790 THz. These boundaries are not sharply defined and may vary per individual. Under optimal conditions these limits of human perception can extend to 310 nm (UV) and 1100 nm (NIR).
An optical prism is a transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light. At least one surface must be angled — elements with two parallel surfaces are not prisms. The traditional geometrical shape of an optical prism is that of a triangular prism with a triangular base and rectangular sides, and in colloquial use "prism" usually refers to this type. Some types of optical prism are not in fact in the shape of geometric prisms. Prisms can be made from any material that is transparent to the wavelengths for which they are designed. Typical materials include glass, acrylic and fluorite.
The Newtonian telescope, also called the Newtonian reflector or just the Newtonian, is a type of reflecting telescope invented by the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), using a concave primary mirror and a flat diagonal secondary mirror. Newton's first reflecting telescope was completed in 1668 and is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope. The Newtonian telescope's simple design has made it very popular with amateur telescope makers.
In physics, action at a distance is the concept that an object can be moved, changed, or otherwise affected without being physically touched by another object. That is, it is the non-local interaction of objects that are separated in space.
A color wheel or color circle is an abstract illustrative organization of color hues around a circle, which shows the relationships between primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors etc.
Theory of Colours is a book by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about the poet's views on the nature of colours and how these are perceived by humans. It was published in German in 1810 and in English in 1840. The book contains detailed descriptions of phenomena such as coloured shadows, refraction, and chromatic aberration.
The Newton disc, also known as the Disappearing Colour Disc, is a well-known physics experiment with a rotating disc with segments in different colors appearing as white when it spins very fast.
Optics began with the development of lenses by the ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, followed by theories on light and vision developed by ancient Greek philosophers, and the development of geometrical optics in the Greco-Roman world. The word optics is derived from the Greek term τα ὀπτικά meaning "appearance, look". Optics was significantly reformed by the developments in the medieval Islamic world, such as the beginnings of physical and physiological optics, and then significantly advanced in early modern Europe, where diffractive optics began. These earlier studies on optics are now known as "classical optics". The term "modern optics" refers to areas of optical research that largely developed in the 20th century, such as wave optics and quantum optics.
In optics, the corpuscular theory of light, arguably set forward by Descartes in 1637, states that light is made up of small discrete particles called "corpuscles" which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess impetus. This was based on an alternate description of atomism of the time period.
A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the Sun.
The Queries is the third book to English physicist Isaac Newton's Opticks, with various numbers of Query sections or "question" sections, expanded on from 1704 to 1718, that contains Newton's final thoughts on the future puzzles of science. Query 31, in particular, launched affinity chemistry and the dozens of affinity tables that were made in the 18th century, based on Newton's description of affinity gradients.
Newtonianism is a philosophical and scientific doctrine inspired by the beliefs and methods of natural philosopher Isaac Newton. While Newton's influential contributions were primarily in physics and mathematics, his broad conception of the universe as being governed by rational and understandable laws laid the foundation for many strands of Enlightenment thought. Newtonianism became an influential intellectual program that applied Newton's principles in many avenues of inquiry, laying the groundwork for modern science, in addition to influencing philosophy, political thought and theology.
Chromostereopsis is a visual illusion whereby the impression of depth is conveyed in two-dimensional color images, usually of red-blue or red-green colors, but can also be perceived with red-grey or blue-grey images. Such illusions have been reported for over a century and have generally been attributed to some form of chromatic aberration.
On Vision and Colors is a treatise by Arthur Schopenhauer that was published in May 1816 when the author was 28 years old. Schopenhauer had extensive discussions with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe about the poet's Theory of Colours of 1810, in the months around the turn of the years 1813 and 1814, and initially shared Goethe's views. Their growing theoretical disagreements and Schopenhauer's criticisms made Goethe distance himself from his young collaborator. Although Schopenhauer considered his own theory superior, he would still continue to praise Goethe’s work as an important introduction to his own.
The first description of multiple-prism arrays, and multiple-prism dispersion, was given by Newton in his book Opticks. Prism pair expanders were introduced by Brewster in 1813. A modern mathematical description of the single-prism dispersion was given by Born and Wolf in 1959. The generalized multiple-prism dispersion theory was introduced by Duarte and Piper in 1982.
Goethean science concerns the natural philosophy of German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Although primarily known as a literary figure, Goethe did research in morphology, anatomy, and optics. He also developed a phenomenological approach to natural history, an alternative to Enlightenment natural science, which is still debated today among scholars.
Light and Colour – The Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis is an oil painting by the English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (c.1775–1851), first exhibited in 1843.
Treatise on Light: In Which Are Explained The Causes of That Which Occurs in Reflection & Refraction is a book written by Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens that was published in French in 1690. The book describes Huygens' conception of the nature of light which makes it possible to explain the laws of geometrical optics as shown in Descartes' Dioptrique, which Huygens aimed to replace.
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