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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines Isaac Newton’s contributions to the development of optics. Newton’s Opticks: Or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light (1704) dominated the science of optics for more than a century. His theory of colour and the compound nature of sunlight was central to modern optics. This article first considers Newton’s reflecting telescope before discussing the fundamental elements of his theory of the nature of white light and colour. It then evaluates the reception toward Newton’s ‘new theory about light and colour’ and his refinement of the theory, along with his corpuscular optics, with emphasis on his explanation regarding refraction and dispersion. It also explores Newton’s ideas about the colours of natural bodies and of thick plates, his theory of fits, and the delayed publication of the Opticks. Finally, it reflects on Robert Hooke’s influence on Newton’s concept of diffraction.

Keywords: Isaac Newton, optics, Opticks, theory of colour, sunlight, reflecting telescope, white light, corpuscular optics, refraction, diffraction

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