Isaac Newton’s classic writings on light and optics are the heart of this volume in the series, Masterworks of Discovery: Guided Studies of Great Texts in Science. The innovative series is aimed at making the great works of scientific discovery accessible to students and lay readers. For each volume, distinguished historians of science have carefully selected original texts (or extracts) and accompanied them with interpretive commentary, explanatory notes, and bio-bibliographical material. These volumes are not synopses or histories to take the place of the original works. Instead, they enable non-specialists to read these classics for themselves and take an active part in discovering the excitement of scientific discovery.
Newton first revealed his scientific genius in his pathbreaking work on optics and the properties of light. Through Newton’s early 1672 letter to the Royal Society and long extracts from his mature work, Opticks (1704), the reader can follow Newton’s own descriptions of his experiments on prisms and films, his arguments about white and colored light and the “particle” nature of light, and his influential remarks on scientific method. Dennis Sepper’s deft commentaries, diagrams, and notes help clarify difficulties that modern readers are apt to encounter in Newton’s language and science. Sepper also provides an engaging sketch of Newton’s life, the scientific background to these discoveries, and their aftermath.