The Collector has discovered Isaac Newton’s lost personal copy of the Opticks

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Zoom in / Isaac Newton’s personal copy of the 1717 second edition of the opticslong thought lost, has been found.

Peter Harrington Rare Books

David DeLaura, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, was working on a comprehensive bibliography listing every important scholarly volume in optics when he made an unexpected discovery. A copy of Isaac Newton’s core thesis optics which he purchased nearly 20 years ago from Newton’s personal library, which he believed had been lost for many decades. The book will be on sale at the Rare Book Fair in San Francisco, February 3-5, 2023, at a price of $375,000.

“It’s becoming increasingly rare for an author’s edition of a book of this magnitude to fly under the radar for so many years,” said Pom Harrington, owner of Rare Books Peter Harrington, who handles the sale. When DiLaura bought this copy over 20 years ago from an English rare book dealer in West Sussex, neither buyer nor seller had any idea of ​​its history. DiLaura described his discovery as a “once-in-a-lifetime event for collectors.” And it really is. . Collectors and rare book dealers love a good story about rediscovery, especially one that came to light—quite literally in this case—the way this one did.”

Newton is most famous for him principles and co-invention in calculus, but also had a lifelong interest in optics. For example, he once stuck a long sewing needle (body) into his eye socket between the eye and the bone and recorded the colored circles and other visual effects he saw. As a young scientist at the University of Cambridge, he did what is known as his name experimental crossHe darkens his room one sunny day and cuts a hole in the shutter to let a narrow beam of sunlight into the room. Then he placed a glass prism in the sunbeam and noticed rainbow bands of light in the color spectrum.

When he placed the second prism upside down in front of the first, the spectrum of colors recombined into white sunlight, proving his hypothesis that white light consisted of all the colors of the spectrum combined. Based on his theory of color, Newton concluded that refracting telescope lenses would suffer from chromatic aberrations (the scattering of light into colours) and built the first practical reflecting telescope, using reflecting mirrors instead of lenses as an objective to solve this problem. He made a demonstration of his telescope to the Royal Society in 1671.

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Zoom in / Engraving depicting Isaac Newton cross experience.

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Newton was also at the center of a heated debate about whether light was a particle or a wave – a debate that had raged for thousands of years. For example, Pythagoras was staunchly “pro-particle”, while contemporaries ridiculed Aristotle for daring to suggest that light travels as a wave. Experimental observations of the behavior of light contradict each other. On the one hand, light travels in a straight line and then bounces off a reflective surface. This is how particles behave. But they can also diffuse outward, and different beams of light can cross paths and mix. This is wave-like behaviour.

By the 17th century, many scientists had generally accepted the wave nature of light, but there were still strongholds in the research community—among them Newton, who argued fervently that light was composed of streams of particles he called “corpuscles.” In 1672, colleagues persuaded Newton to publish his conclusions on the physical nature of light at the Royal Society. Philosophical Transactions. He seemed to assume that his ideas would be greeted unanimously and was offended when Robert Hooke and Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens criticized his conclusions.

All of these ideas and more eventually formed the basis of Newton’s final thesis, opticswhich was first published in 1704. At that time, the English astronomer John Flamsteed declared that it “makes no noise in the city”, unlike the time principles has been published. But it is still a significant contribution to the photonic sciences, ranking alongside Johannes Kepler Astronomy Pars Optica and Huygens’ La Lumiere feature. Also unlike principlesAnd optics It was written in English rather than Latin, making it more readable.

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