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Optics in the Age of Euler: Conceptions of the Nature of Light, 1700-1795

Casper Hakfoort

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ISBN 10: 0521404711 / ISBN 13: 9780521404716
Published by Cambridge University Press, 1995
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Optics in the Age of Euler: Conceptions of ...

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Publication Date: 1995

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: New

Edition: Revised.

About this title

Synopsis:

This book studies the eighteenth-century origins and early phase of a fundamental debate in optics: whether light is a particle or wave. Specifically, it is the first in-depth study of the contents and reception of Leonhard Euler's wave theory of light. The author shows that contrary to what has been assumed, the debate did not start in 1672 with Newton's particle theory of light. Rather, it only really got under way after Euler published his wave theory in 1746. He also corrects the misapprehension that Newton's theory was prevalently held in Germany in the early years of the debate, but really only became dominant around 1795. In his discussion, Professor Hakfoort demonstrates in dramatic fashion the relevance of chemical experiments on physical optics. Finally, in the epilogue, the author reflects on the mathematical, experimental, and metaphysical aspects of physical optics that shaped early modern science.

Book Description:

According to received historiography, the fundamental issue in eighteenth-century optics was whether light could be understood as the emission of particles or as the motion of waves in a subtle medium. Moreover, the emission theory of light was supposed to have been dominant in the eighteenth-century, backed by Newton's physical arguments. This picture is enriched and qualified by focusing on the origins, contents and reception of the wave theory of light--published by Leonhard Euler in 1746-- here studied in depth for the first time. Contrary to what has been assumed, the particle-wave debate only starts with Euler. When the emission view of light suddenly became dominant in Germany around 1795, it was new chemical experiments that proved crucial. Reflecting on the mathematical, experimental and metaphysical aspects of physical optics, a general picture of early modern science is outlined in the epilogue to the book.

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