Commentaries on the Exhibit’s Works




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Two brief commentaries prepared by Robert Brecha, PhD, Professor, Physics, and H. Angus Macleod, DTech, University of Arizona, on the following work:

Isaac Newton
Opticks: Or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light
London, 1704; first edition


Optics was a well-established discipline by the seventeenth century. However, although the production of mirrors, telescopes, microscopes, spectacles, and other optical instruments was well advanced, the methods were largely empirical, and there was no detailed understanding of the nature and behavior of light. The subject was ready for a more disciplined approach. This was the essence of Newton’s contributions.Opticks was important not just for the unambiguous rules of optical behavior, but also because it clearly demonstrated that it was possible to apply logical reasoning to science and technology to establish natural laws.

The book reads as well today as it must have in 1704. It is one of the most significant texts in optics and paints a remarkable picture of the early development of the scientific method.

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Newton: ‘Opticks’


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