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Newton's Optical Writings: A Guided Study (Masterworks of Discovery) Paperback – January 1, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0813520384 ISBN-10: 081352038X

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Product Details

  • Series: Masterworks of Discovery
  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081352038X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813520384
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,732,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Viktor Blasjo on June 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
The series of "Guided Studies" in which this book appears is a highly commendable initiative. The inclusion of Newton's optics is this series is somewhat odd though, since Newton's Opticks is one of the most readable works in the history of science. There are certainly many other classics for which a guided study would have been far more valuable. Even so, the commentary in this book does add a few interesting points that one would miss out on by reading only the Opticks itself, such as a plausible speculation that Newton was led to study prisms because prisms placed vertex-to-vertex or face-to-face can be considered crude approximations of concave and convex lenses respectively (p. 24), or that in his lectures of the early 1670s Newton divided the spectrum into only five colours, later adding two more for the sake of the analogy with the musical scale (p. 99).

The commentary is good on colour theory (Sepper's speciality) but weak on the mathematical physics side of things. Only in Newton's books II and III does Sepper realise that Newton is making a connection to "the kind of force-particle physics he had undertaken in the Principia" (p. 145). Thus in Sepper's account this connection comes from rather esoteric phenomena, namely: "The study of thin-plate colors concluded that forces exist at or near body surfaces, and Grimaldi's diffraction effects suggested to Newton that edges exert forces as well" (p. 151). This is highly misleading. In fact, Newton does use force-particle physics already in Book I in his proof of the law of refraction in Proposition VI. Sepper glosses over this proposition in one single sentence and completely misses its importance (pp. 77-78), despite the fact that he discussed the law in question lengthily (and somewhat clumsily) in his "Preliminaries" chapter (pp.
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