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Opticks: Isaac Newton's Theories of Light & Color . . .

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Isaac Newton published Opticks: Or a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. Also Two Treatises of the Species and Magnitude of Curvilinear Figures in London in 1704. Unlike most of Newton's works, Opticks was originally published in English, with the Latin version following in 1706. The book summarized Newton's discoveries and theories concerning light and color: the spectrum of the sunlight, the degrees of refraction associated with different colors, the color circle (the first in the history of color theory), the invention of the reflecting telescope; the first workable theory of the rainbow, and experiments on what would later be called "interference effects" in conjunction with Newton's rings.  His discovery of periodicity in Newton's rings, which would later prove to be so useful to Thomas Young, led Newton to postulate that periodicity was a fundamental property either of light waves or of waves associated with light.  Nevertheless, Newton preferred the corpuscular theory of light, with which he is usually associated, because of its explanatory value for certain optical phenomena and because it a llowed him to link the action of gross bodies with the action of light. The first edition of the Opticks ends with two mathematical treatises in Latin, written to establish his priority over Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in the invention of the calculus.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1588. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 172.

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