Fjordman Essay: A History of Optics, part 1
The latest from Fjordman explores the development of optics in the West and in the Islamic world:
My history of optics will be published in at least five parts here over the coming days. I will look into all aspects of it, from mathematics via glassmaking, eyeglasses/spectacles, microscopes and telescopes to chemistry, photography and the modern electromagnetic understanding of light. All following quotes by the eminent scholar David C. Lindberg, who is widely recognized to be a leading scholar on ancient, medieval and early modern optics, refer to his book Theories of vision – From al-Kindi to Kepler, except when explicitly stated otherwise. I include page references to longer quotes from all relevant book so that others can use the material if they want to.
Speculations about the rainbow can be traced almost as far back as written records go. In China, a systematic analysis of shadows and reflection existed by the fourth century BC. I will concentrate mainly on the Greek, Middle Eastern and European optical traditions here, but will say a few words about Chinese ideas later. The theories of vision of the atomists Democritus and Epicurus, of Plato and his predecessors, of the Stoics and of Galen and Aristotle were almost entirely devoid of mathematics. The first Greek exposition of a mathematical theory of vision was in the Optica by the great mathematician Euclid, author of the Elements, perhaps the most influential textbook in the history of mathematics. Scholar Victor J. Katz in A History of Mathematics, second edition, page 58:
"The most important mathematical text of Greek times, and probably of all time, the Elements of Euclid, written about 2300 years ago, has appeared in more editions than any work other than the Bible….Yet to the modern reader the work is incredibly dull...There are simply definitions, axioms, theorems, and proofs. Nevertheless, the book has been intensively studied. Biographies of...