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Opticks (Great Mind) Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1591020950
ISBN-10: 1591020956
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Now, thanks to Octavo, anyone with a computer can enjoy priceless works. -- Time, April 5, 1999

Octavo editions give readers a firsthand experience of a milestone text: each includes page-by-page views, expert commentaries, and appropriate "marginalia." -- University of Chicago Magazine, October 2004

There are no cookie-cutter regimens they follow in their editions. Octavo explores each work and decides how to embellish it. -- Fine Books & Collections, September/October 2004 (cover story) --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.

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Imaged from the Warnock Library --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Great Mind
  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; Reprint edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020956
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020950
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,645,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
As this review will appear on multiple editions of Opticks, please select carefully which you purchase. The present edition of this classic work in the history of science is a printing of an edition which was published in 1931 by Messrs G. Bell and Sons of London with a foreword by Albert Einstein and an introduction by E.T. Whittaker. To this wealth of previous introductory material the present edition adds an illuminating preface by I. Bernard Cohen. In an original contribution to the history of science he sets forth the influence that Newton's Opticks, or a treatise of the reflections, refractions, inflections and colours of light, exerted on other sciences during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For physical theory Newton's Opticks presented a corpuscular theory of light which dominated physical thought during the eighteenth century. But Cohen shows that Thomas Young, who performed basic experiments for the wave theory of light, held that his views merely developed those of Newton, whose work Young cited extensively. Cohen also refers to the researches of Marjorie Hope Nicolson, to whom the present edition is dedicated in recognition of her revelation of the influence of the Opticks on the literary imagination in the eighteenth century.

The Opticks is divided into the First Book, parts I and II; the Second Book, parts I, II, III, IV; the Third Book, part I. Newton began part I of the First Book with the statement that his design was not to explain the properties of light by hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by reason and experiments. The First Book contains Newton's theory of colors and describes in detail how he varied conditions in order to demonstrate that white light is composed of invariable components.
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Format: Paperback
There are two main arguments for a corpuscular view of light:

(1) Light consists of rays of inherent and inalterable dispositions (as regards colour, refrangibility, etc.). This is argued for throughout, but see esp. the classic prism experiments in props. I and II. Wave theorists, on the contrary, base their explanations on modifications of rays.

(2) The law of refraction "may be demonstrated upon this Supposition. That Bodies refract Light by acting upon its Rays in Lines perpendicular to their Surfaces" (p. 79). Consider what happens as the ray passes through the strip from y=c to the surface boundary at y=0. Newton states the lemma that the vertical velocity v_2 at y=0 will be determined by the initial vertical velocity v_1 at y=c and the would-be vertical velocity v_0 at y=0 if v_1 had been 0, as follows: v_2^2=v_1^2+v_0^2. Newton omits the proof as being too easy; it may be supplied as follows. Think of the v's as functions of y and differentiate. Both sides vill be of the form 2v(dv/dy) = 2(dy/dt)(dv/dy) = 2(dv/dt) = 2a = proportional to F, which is equal at equal y's. Thus since the lemma holds for c=0 and the derivatives are equal it holds generally. Though Newton emphasises that he has not assumed anything about the nature of light, we see that this proof makes most sense from a corpuscular point of view since it in effect appeals to F=ma. A further side effect of this proof is that it implies that light speeds up when it is refracted towards the normal, which implies that light is slowest in vacuum and fastest in dense materials.

(1) and (2) are elegantly combined if rays of different colours consist of particles of different sizes.
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Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, whose Principia (published in 1687) founded classical mechanics, and described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion. His most famous work is The Principia.

He begins this 1704 book by stating, "My design in this Book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments: In order to which I shall premise the following Definitions and Axioms." (Pg. 1)

After an experiment with prisms, he observes, "we find... that when the Rays which differ in Refrangibility are separated from one another, and any one Sort of them is considered apart, the Colour of the Light which they compose cannot be changed by any Refraction or Reflexion whatever, as it ought to be were Colours nothing else than Modifications of Light caused by Refractions, and Reflexions, and Shadows. This Unchangeableness of Colour I am now to describe…” (Pg. 121)

He observes, “all the Productions and Appearances of Colours in the World are derived, not from any physical Change caused in Light by Refraction or Reflexion, but only from the various Mixtures or Separations of rays, by virtue of their different Refrangibility or Reflexibility. And in this respect the Science of Colours becomes a Speculation as truly mathematical as any other part of Opticks. I mean, so far as they depend on the Nature of Light, and are not produced or altered by the Power of Imagination, or by striking or pressing the Eye.” (Pg.
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