Optics in the Age of Euler

Conceptions of the Nature of Light, 1700–1795

Optics in the Age of Euler

This book studies the eighteenth-century origins and early phase of a fundamental debate in optics: whether light is a particle or wave. Specifically, it is the first in-depth study of the contents and reception of Leonhard Euler's wave theory of light. The author shows that contrary to what has been assumed, the debate did not start in 1672 with Newton's particle theory of light. Rather, it only really got under way after Euler published his wave theory in 1746. He also corrects the misapprehension that Newton's theory was prevalently held in Germany in the early years of the debate, but really only became dominant around 1795. In his discussion, Professor Hakfoort demonstrates in dramatic fashion the relevance of chemical experiments on physical optics. Finally, in the epilogue, the author reflects on the mathematical, experimental, and metaphysical aspects of physical optics that shaped early modern science.


"...this book with its rich factual material and thought provoking ideas is a valuable contribution to the history of science." Nahum Kipnis, Technology and Culture

'During the past 30 years historians of optics have done much to rewrite the history of the subject. In Optics in the Age of Euler Dr Hakfoort has added an important element to this reappraisal.' European Journal of Physics

'Hakfoort's book is both a significant contribution to the history of physics and also an interesting exploration of the interrelation between history and historiography.' British Journal for the History of Science

'… offers some fresh insights on this important topic.' Michael A. Sutton, Ambix

'Hakfoort's book is well researched. It is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the growing field of research in eighteenth-century optics.' Kurt Moller Pedersen, Centaurus