From its inception in Greek antiquity, the science of optics was aimed primarily at explaining sight and accounting for why things look as they do. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the analytic focus of optics had shifted to light: its fundamental properties and such physical behaviors as reflection, refraction, and diffraction. This dramatic shift—which A. Mark Smith characterizes as the “Keplerian turn”—lies at the heart of this fascinating and pioneering study.
Breaking from previous scholarship that sees Johannes Kepler as the culmination of a long-evolving optical tradition that traced back to Greek antiquity via the Muslim Middle Ages, Smith presents Kepler instead as marking a rupture with this tradition, arguing that his theory of retinal imaging, which was published in 1604, was instrumental in prompting the turn from sight to light. Kepler’s new theory of sight, Smith reveals, thus takes on true historical significance: by treating the eye as a mere light-focusing device rather than an image-producing instrument—as traditionally understood—Kepler’s account of retinal imaging helped spur the shift in analytic focus that eventually led to modern optics.
A sweeping survey, From Sight to Light is poised to become the standard reference for historians of optics as well as those interested more broadly in the history of science, the history of art, and cultural and intellectual history.
Michael I. Sobel University of Chicago Press, 1989 Library of Congress QC355.2.S63 1987 | Dewey Decimal 535
Rainbows and exploding stars, ancient Greek optics and modern lasers—these are but a few facets of this entertaining exploration of light in all areas of science and technology.
"Like the denizens of some brilliant ocean, humans are awash in light. Surrounded by illuminations both natural and artificial, we remain blissfully unaware of how light determines most of life's rhythms and rituals or how it dominates every field of modern science. Michael I. Sobel, a professor of physics at Brooklyn College, has attempted no less a task than to enlighten us (see how it pervades our language) about the many facets of this ubiquitous phenomenon, from its earliest stirrings of emotion and wonder in ancient savants to its modern applications in lasers and silicon chips. His broader objective, however, is to show the unity of the natural sciences by using light as a central theme. . . . As a guide along the path of light Mr. Sobel is excellent."—James Cornell, New York Times Book Review
"At long last, here is a book about a technical subject that anyone can read with interest and understand. . . . The author's technical genius and communication skills are combined with excellent lucid sketches, concise meaty captions, and fascinating photographs."—Jason R. Taylor, Science Books and Films
“The title says it all. It is simply a magnificent dissertation on every aspect of light. Its lucid and attractive prose may be read for pleasure and wonder, yet the book is also a reference book of authority. I doubt whether any question about light cannot be answered by consulting it, whether the question is about glow-worms or the aurora borealis, black bodies of the structure of the eye, mirages or fluorescence. This is a marvelous book, one of the best paperbacks I have ever encountered.”—New Scientist
The purpose of this book is to present cutting-edge research advances in the rapidly growing areas of nanoantennas and plasmonics and their related enabling technologies and applications. This book provides a comprehensive treatment of the field on subjects ranging from fundamental theoretical principles and new technological developments, to state-of-the-art device design, as well as examples encompassing a wide range of related sub-areas. The content of the book covers highly-directive nanoatennas, all-dielectric and tunable/reconfigurable devices, metasurface optical components, and other related topics.
"No one interested in the history of optics, the history of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century physics, or the general phenomenon of theory change in science can afford to ignore Jed Buchwald's well-structured, highly detailed, and scrupulously researched book. . . . Buchwald's analysis will surely constitute the essential starting point for further work on this important and hitherto relatively neglected episode of theory change."—John Worrall, Isis
Walter T. Welford University of Chicago Press, 1991 Library of Congress QC355.2.W45 1991 | Dewey Decimal 535
Students and professionals alike have long felt the need of a modern source of practical advice on the use of optical tools in scientific research. Walter T. Welford's Useful Optics meets this need.
Welford offers a succinct review of principles basic to the construction and use of optics in physics. His lucid explanations and clear illustrations will particularly help those whose interests lie in other areas but who nevertheless must understand enough about optics to create the experimental apparatus necessary to their research. Consistently emphasizing applications and practical points of design, Welford covers a host of topics: mirrors and prisms, optical materials, aberration, the limits of image formation and resolution, illumination for image-forming systems, laser beams, interference and interferometry, detectors and light sources, holography, and more. The final chapter deals with putting together an experimental optics system.
Many areas of the physical sciences and engineering increasingly demand an appreciation of optics. Welford's Useful Optics will prove indispensable to any researcher trying to develop and use effective optical apparatus.
Walter T. Welford (1916-1990) was professor of physics at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine from 1951 until his death. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Optical Society of America.