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Opticks (Great Minds Series) [Paperback]

Sir Isaac Newton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1, 2003 1591020956 978-1591020950
Before Newton completed his masterpiece, The Principia Mathematica, he had established his reputation with this treatise on the properties of light. Though on a narrower topic, this work is as impressive in its own right as The Principia, for it provided a scientific analysis of light that became the basis of our modern understanding. Based on experiments in which a beam of light was passed through a prism, Newton showed that white light was complex and could be analyzed as a blend of the various colors of the spectrum. Divided into three books, the first describes his experiments with the spectrum. The second deals with the ring phenomenon, in which concentric rings of colors appear in the thin layer of air separating a lens and an underlying plate of glass. The third book describes his work on diffraction. Also discussed is Newton's theory that light consists basically of "material corpuscles" in motion.
Though clearly intended for fellow scientists this classic monument of modern physics is surprisingly readable and understandable for nonspecialists.

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Opticks (Great Minds Series) + The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy + Relativity: The Special and General Theory
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Editorial Reviews


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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

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

Product Details

  • Series: Great Minds Series
  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020956
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020950
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the all-time great works of science March 27, 2011
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant February 8, 2009
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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No diagrams = worthless December 17, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
How am I supposed to understand an optics book without the essential figures? This is worthless, so I'm glad it was free.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dry Reading, but Important Historically May 19, 2014
By Charles
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is not what I would call a pleasant book to read. I give this book 3 stars because it rates 5 stars for its scientific importance, and it rates 1 star in its prose. If you have the patience and the interest, then you will enjoy this book. Most people will not.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good understanding for the time. April 7, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is amazing how knowledgeable Newton was for his day. You see what Einstein used as a foundation to his work and other scientists. The examples would be better understood if illustrated. But to, you see the limitation in accordance with the time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This book is a part of scientific history November 18, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gave it as a gift to my physicist father. He had worked a great deal on optics once upon a time. So, of course he liked the gesture.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classics for free is good! January 19, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was so excited to get this classic for free on Amazon! I will definitely be reading this one on my kindle soon!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Optiks came on time and in perfectly usable condition October 21, 2012
By Dora
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It was worth the price. I would definitely recommend it to the old school physics lovers. I have this on kindle but wanted to gift it to my physicist father.
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