A historical analysis on the study of optics from pre-Socratic times through the age of Newton. By Adam R.

Essay by adamrubyUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2004

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Our lives are constantly influenced by great thinkers of our past. Modern marvels such as the light bulb, televisions, airplanes, and the internet, are all inventions that one could argue have been in the making for the last few millennia. Hellenistic philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, Galen, Ptolemy, Archimedes, and Aristotle, have all helped pave the way for those great scientists of the modern era. One of the oldest studies by the classical natural philosophers' was optics, or the study of light and vision. The word "optics" is derived from the Greek word for eye, "ops". We know that the ancient Greeks were studying optics over two thousand years ago, and that they spent a good deal of effort in trying to understand this faculty. The natural philosophers of this era found a great interest in optics due to the fields inherent properties. Light, as viewed by the ancient Greeks could not be touched in a material sense, but its' heat could be felt, and its' beam could be seen on the wall or the ground.

Light could be reflected or rebounded off of smooth, reflective, mirrored surfaces; the Greeks called this "catoptrics". These great philosophers also noticed that light would "bend" when it passes through transparent or translucent mediums, such as water; this light refraction was referred to as "dioptrics".

There is evidence that philosophers in ancient Greece were so advanced that by 400 B.C.E., those dedicated to the study of optics, or "opticians", had organized and developed a mathematical theory of how the eye perceives entities. It is believed that sometime between 287 - 212 B.C.E., Archimedes developed a somewhat advanced theory of reflection, and had began the investigation of refraction. However, what we do know is from the few known texts from classical times that give us...