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Traité de la Lumière. Où sont expliquées les Causes de ce qui luy arrive dans la Reflexion, & dans la Refraction. Et particulierement dans l'etrange Refraction du Cristal d'Islande ... Avec un Discours de la Cause de la Pesanteur.Leyden: Pierre vander Aa, 1690. First edition.
Huygens' pathbreaking exposition of his wave theory of light. Huygens had developed his theory of light in 1676 and 1677, and completed his Traité de la Lumière in 1678. He read portions of the treatise to the Academy during the following year but left it unpublished, until Newton's Principia (1687) and a visit with Newton in 1689 stimulated him to have it printed at last. "Light, according to Huygens, is an irregular series of shock waves which proceeds with very great, but finite, velocity through the ether. This ether consists of uniformly minute, elastic particles compressed very close together. Light, therefore, is not an actual transference of matter but rather of a 'tendency to move', a serial displacement similar to a collision which proceeds through a row of balls ... Huygens therefore concluded that new wave fronts originate around each particle that is touched by light and extend outward from the particle in the form of hemispheres..." (DSB). Huygens was able to explain reflection and refraction using this theory, of which he became completely convinced in August 6, 1677, when he found that it explained the double refraction in Iceland spar. His view of light was opposed to the corpuscular theory of light advanced by Newton.

In the second part of the work, the Discours de la cause de la pesanteur, written in 1669, Huygens expounded his vortex theory of gravity, a purely mechanistic theory that also contrasted markedly with Newton's notion of a universal attractional force intrinsic to matter. Indeed, Huygens added to the original treatise of 1669 a review of Newton's theory, rejecting it out of hand because of the impossibility of explaining it by any mechanical principle or law of motion. Huygens' work fell into oblivion during the following century, but his theory of light was confirmed at the beginning of the 19th century by Thomas Young, who used it to explain optical interference, and by Jean-Augustin Fresnel a few years later. Modern physics has reconciled Newton's and Huygens' theories in discerning both corpuscular and wave characteristics in the properties of light.

Grolier/Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science 54; Dibner, Heralds of Science 146; Evans, First Editions of Epochal Achievements in the History of Science 32; Sparrow, Milestones of Science 111.. 4to: 199 x 160 mm. Contemporary limp vellum. Front paste down renewed, some browning, in all a very good copy. (8), 124, (2:title), 125-128, (2:index), 129-180 pp. There are two states of the two title leaves: one in which both titles have the author's initials, "C. H. D. Z." (Christian Huygens der Zeelhem); the other in which the author's name is given in full on both titles, "Christian Huygens, Signeur de Zeelhem". There is no priority established between the two states. This copy is with the author's full name given on both titles

      [Bookseller: Sophia Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2012-12-27           Check availability:      Antikvariat    


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