Donor challenge: Your generous donation will be matched 2-to-1 right now. Your $5 becomes $15! Dear Internet Archive Supporter,. I ask only once a year. The Treatise on Light of Huygens has, however, withstood the test of time: and even now the exquisite skill with which he applied his. Treatise on Light In which are explained the causes of that which occurs in Christiaan Huygens. translated by Silvanus P. Thompson.

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And, although I have since corrected and changed some parts, the copies which I had made of it at that time may serve for proof that I ligjt yet added nothing to it save some conjectures touching the formation of Iceland Crystal, and a novel observation on the refraction of Rock Crystal. I have desired to relate these particulars to make known how long I have meditated the things which now I publish, and not for the purpose of detracting from the merit of those who, without having seen anything that I have written, may be found to have treated of like matters: Chrkstiaan may ask why I have so long delayed to bring this work to the light.

The reason is that Tdeatise wrote it rather carelessly in the Language in which it appears, with the intention of translating it into Latin, so doing in order to obtain greater attention to the thing. After which I proposed to myself to give it out along with another Treatise on Dioptrics, in which I explain the effects of Telescopes and those things which belong more to that Science.

But the pleasure of novelty hujgens past, I have buygens off from time to time the execution of this design, and I know not when I shall ever come to an end if it, being often turned aside either by business or by some new study.

Considering which I have finally judged that it was better worth while to publish this writing, such tgeatise it is, than to let it run the risk, by waiting longer, of remaining lost. There will be seen in it demonstrations of those kinds which do not produce as great a certitude as those of Geometry, and which even differ much therefrom, since whereas the Geometers prove their Tretaise by fixed and incontestable Principles, here the Principles are verified by the conclusions to be drawn from chrsitiaan the nature of these things not allowing of this being done otherwise.

It is always possible to attain thereby to a degree of probability which very often is scarcely less than complete proof. To wit, when things which have been demonstrated by the Principles that have been assumed correspond perfectly to the phenomena which experiment has brought under observation; especially when there are a great number of them, and further, principally, when one can imagine and foresee new phenomena which ought liyht follow from the hypotheses which one employs, and when one finds that therein the fact corresponds to our prevision.

But if all these proofs of probability are met with in that which I propose to discuss, as it seems to me they are, this ought to be a very strong confirmation of the success of my inquiry; and it must be ill if the facts are not pretty much as I represent them.

I would believe then that those who love to know the Causes of things and who are able to admire the christaan of Light, will find some satisfaction in these various speculations regarding it, and in the new explanation of its famous property which is the main foundation of the lihht of our eyes and of those great inventions which extend so vastly the use of them. I hope also that there will be some who by following these beginnings will penetrate much further into this question than I have been able to do, since the subject must curistiaan far from being exhausted.

Treatise on Light by Christiaan Huygens

This appears from the passages which I have indicated where I leave certain difficulties without having resolved them, and still more from matters which I have not touched at all, such as Luminous Bodies of several sorts, and all that concerns Colours; in which no one until now can boast of having succeeded.

Finally, there remains much more to be investigated touching the nature of Light which I do not pretend to have disclosed, and I shall owe much in return to him who shall be able to supplement that which is here lacking to me in knowledge. The 8 January Perhaps the circumstance is due to the mistaken zeal with which formerly everything that conflicted with the cherished ideas llght Newton was denounced by his followers.

The Treatise on Light of Huygens has, however, withstood the test of time: It is true that his wave lighf was far from the complete doctrine as subsequently developed by Thomas Young and Augustin Fresnel, and belonged rather to geometrical than to physical Optics. If Huygens had no conception of transverse vibrations, of the principle of interference, or of the existence of the ordered sequence of waves in trains, he nevertheless attained to a remarkably clear understanding of the principles of wave-propagation; and his exposition of the huygebs marks an epoch in the treatment of Optical problems.

Hence hutgens adoption of as literal a rendering as possible. Owing to the circumstance that the French word rayon possesses the double signification of ray of light and radius of a circle, he avoids its use in the latter sense and speaks always of the semi-diameter, not of the radius. His speculations as ljght the ether, his suggestive views of the structure of crystalline bodies, and his explanation of opacity, slight as they are, will possibly surprise the reader by their seeming modernness.

And none can read his investigation of the phenomena found in Iceland spar without marvelling at his insight and sagacity. Such are that the rays of light are propagated in straight lines; that the angles of reflexion and of incidence are equal; and that in refraction the ray is bent according to the law of sines, now so well known, and which is no less certain than the hhygens laws. The christiana of those who have written touching the various parts of Optics have contented themselves with presuming these truths.

But some, more inquiring, have desired to investigate the origin and the causes, considering these to be in themselves wonderful effects of Nature. In which they advanced some ingenious things, but not however such that the most intelligent folk do not wish for better and more satisfactory explanations. Wherefore I here hhygens to propound what I have meditated treafise the subject, so as to contribute as much as I can to the explanation of this department chistiaan Natural Science, christiaan, not without reason, is reputed to be one of its most difficult parts.

I recognize myself to be much indebted to those who were the first to begin to dissipate the strange obscurity in which these things were enveloped, and to give us hope that they might be explained by intelligible reasoning. But, christiaaj the other hand I am astonished also that even here these have often been dhristiaan to offer, as assured and demonstrative, reasonings which were far from conclusive.

For I do not find that any one has yet given a probable explanation of the first and most notable phenomena of light, namely why it is not propagated except in straight lines, and how visible rays, coming from an infinitude of diverse places, cross one another without hindering one another in any way.


I shall therefore essay treatis this book, to give, in accordance with the principles accepted in the Philosophy of the present day, some clearer and more probable reasons, firstly of these properties of light propagated rectilinearly; secondly of light which is reflected on meeting other bodies.

Then I shall explain the phenomena of those rays which are said to suffer refraction on passing through transparent bodies of different sorts; and in this part I shall also explain the effects of the refraction of the air by the different densities of the Atmosphere.

Thereafter I shall examine the causes of the strange refraction of a certain kind of Crystal which is brought from Iceland. And finally I shall om of the various shapes of transparent and reflecting bodies by which rays are collected at a point or are turned aside in various ways.

From this it will be seen with what facility, following our new Theory, we find not only the Ellipses, Hyperbolas, and other curves which Mr.

Treatise on Light (Illustrated Edition)

Des Cartes has ingeniously invented for this purpose; but also those which the surface of a glass lens ought to possess when its other surface is given as spherical or plane, or of any other figure that may be. It is inconceivable to doubt that light consists in the motion of some sort of matter. For whether one considers its production, one sees that here upon the Earth it is chiefly engendered by fire and flame which contain without doubt bodies that are in rapid motion, since they dissolve and melt many other bodies, even the most solid; or whether one considers its effects, one sees that when light is collected, as by concave mirrors, it has the property of burning as a fire does, that is to say it disunites the particles of bodies.

This is assuredly the mark of motion, at least in the true Philosophy, in which one conceives the causes of all natural effects in terms of mechanical motions. This, in my opinion, we must necessarily do, or else renounce all hopes of ever comprehending anything in Physics.

And as, according to this Philosophy, one holds as certain that the sensation of sight is excited only by the impression of some movement of a kind of matter which acts on the nerves at the back of our eyes, there is here yet one reason more for believing that light consists in a movement of the matter which exists between us and the luminous body.

Further, when one considers the extreme speed with which light spreads on every side, and how, when it comes from different regions, even from those directly opposite, the rays traverse one another without hindrance, one may well understand that when we see a luminous object, it cannot be by any transport of matter coming to us from this object, in the way in which a shot or an arrow traverses the air; for assuredly that would too greatly impugn these two properties of light, especially the second of them.

It is then in some other way that light spreads; and that which can lead us to comprehend it is the knowledge which we have of the spreading of Sound in the air. We know that by means of the air, which is an invisible and impalpable body, Sound spreads around the spot where it has been produced, by a movement which is passed on successively from one part of the air to another; and that the spreading of this movement, taking place equally rapidly on all sides, ought to form spherical surfaces ever enlarging and which strike our ears.

Now there is no doubt at all that light also comes from the luminous body to our eyes by some movement impressed on the matter which is between the two; since, as we have already seen, it cannot be by the transport of a body which passes from one to the other.

If, in addition, light takes time for its passage—which we are now going to examine—it will follow that this movement, impressed on the intervening matter, is successive; and consequently it spreads, as Sound does, by spherical surfaces and waves: To see then whether the spreading of light takes time, let us consider first whether there are any facts of experience which can convince us to the contrary.

As to those which can be made here on the Earth, by striking lights at great distances, although they prove that light takes no sensible time to pass over these distances, one may say with good reason that they are too small, and that the only conclusion to be drawn from them is that the passage of light is extremely rapid. Des Cartes, who was of opinion that it is instantaneous, founded his views, not without reason, upon a better basis of experience, drawn from the Eclipses of the Moon; which, nevertheless, as I shall show, is not at all convincing.

I will set it forth, in a way a little different from his, in order to make the conclusion more comprehensible. Let A be the place of the sun, BD a part of the orbit or annual path of the Earth: Now if light requires time, for example one hour, to traverse the space which is between the Earth and the Moon, it will follow that the Earth having arrived at B, the shadow which it casts, or the interruption of the light, will not yet have arrived at the point C, but will only arrive there an hour after.

It will then be one hour after, reckoning from the moment when the Earth was at B, that the Moon, arriving at C, will be obscured: Let us suppose that the Earth in these two hours will have arrived at E. The Earth then, being at E, will see the Eclipsed Moon at C, which it left an hour before, and at the same time will see the sun at A.

For it being immovable, as I suppose with Copernicus, and the light moving always in straight lines, it must always appear where it is.

But one has always observed, we are told, that the eclipsed Moon appears at the point of the Ecliptic opposite to the Sun; and yet here it would appear in arrear of that point by hreatise amount equal to the angle GEC, the supplement of AEC. This, however, is contrary to experience, since the angle GEC would be very sensible, and about 33 degrees.

Treatise on Light by Christiaan Huygens – Free at Loyal Books

Now according to our computation, which is given in the Treatise on the causes of the phenomena of Saturn, the distance BA ligth the Earth and the Sun is about twelve thousand diameters of the Earth, and hence four hundred times greater than BC the distance of the Moon, which is 30 diameters.

Then the angle ECB will be nearly four hundred times greater than BAE, which is five minutes; namely, the path which the earth travels in two hours along its orbit; and thus the chtistiaan BCE will be nearly 33 degrees; and likewise the angle CEG, which is greater by five minutes. But it must be noted that the speed of light in this argument has been assumed such that it takes a time of one hour to make the passage from here to the Moon.

If one supposes that for this it requires only one minute of time, then it is manifest that the angle CEG treatse only be 33 minutes; and if it requires only ten seconds of time, the angle will be less than six minutes.


And then it hreatise not be easy to perceive anything of it in chrristiaan of the Eclipse; nor, consequently, will it be permissible to deduce from it that the movement of light christiaah instantaneous. It is true that we are here supposing treayise strange velocity that would be a hundred thousand times greater than that of Sound. For Sound, according to what I have observed, travels about Toises in the time of one Second, or in about one beat of the pulse.

But this supposition ought not to seem to be an impossibility; since it is not a question of the transport of a body with so great a speed, but of a successive movement which is passed on from some bodies to others. I have then made no difficulty, in meditating on these things, in supposing that the emanation of light is accomplished with time, seeing that in this way all its phenomena can be explained, and that in following the contrary opinion everything is incomprehensible.

For it has always seemed tome that hygens Mr. Des Cartes, whose aim has been christiaann treat all the subjects of Physics intelligibly, and who assuredly has succeeded in this better than any one before him, has said nothing that is not full of difficulties, or even inconceivable, in dealing with Light and its properties. But that which I employed only as a hypothesis, has recently received great seemingness as an established truth by the ingenious proof of Mr.

It is founded as is the om argument upon celestial observations, and proves not only that Light takes time for its passage, but also demonstrates how much time it takes, and that its velocity is even at least six times greater than that which I have just stated.

For this he makes use of the Eclipses suffered by the little planets which revolve around Jupiter, and which often enter his shadow: Treatisr A be the Sun, BCDE the annual orbit of the Earth, F Jupiter, GN the orbit of the nearest of his Satellites, for it is this lihht which is more apt for this investigation than any of the other three, because of the quickness of its revolution.

Let G be this Satellite entering into the shadow of Jupiter, H the same Satellite emerging from the shadow. Similarly at the other quadrature when the earth has come to E from D while treatisee toward Jupiter, the immersions of the Satellite ought to be observed at E earlier than they would have been seen if the Earth had remained at D.

Now in quantities of observations of these Eclipses, made during ten consecutive years, these differences have been found to be very considerable, such as ten minutes and more; and from them it has been concluded that in order to traverse the whole tratise of the annual orbit KL, which is double the distance from here to the sun, Light requires about 22 minutes of time.

Treatise On Light : Huygens, Christiaan : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

The movement of Jupiter in his orbit while the Earth passed from B to C, or from D to E, is included in this calculation; and this makes it evident that one cannot attribute the retardation of these illuminations or the anticipation of the eclipses, either to any irregularity occurring in the movement of the little planet or to its eccentricity. If one considers the vast size of the diameter KL, which according to me is some 24 thousand diameters of the Earth, one will acknowledge the extreme velocity of Light.

Picard made by order of the King in But Sound, as I have said above, only travels toises in the same time of one second: This, however, is quite another thing from being instantaneous, since there is all the difference between a finite thing and an infinite. Now the successive movement of Light being confirmed in this way, it follows, as I have said, that it spreads by spherical waves, like the movement of Sound.

But if the one resembles the other in this respect, they differ in many other things; to wit, in the first production of the movement which causes them; in the matter in which the movement spreads; and in the manner in which it is propagated. As to that which occurs in the production of Sound, one knows that it is occasioned by the agitation undergone by an entire body, or by a considerable part of one, which shakes all the contiguous air. But the movement of the Light must originate as from each point of the luminous object, else we should not be able to perceive all the different parts of that object, as will be more evident in that which follows.

And I do not believe that this movement can be better explained than by supposing that all those of the luminous bodies which are liquid, such as flames, and apparently the sun and the stars, are composed of particles which float in a much more subtle medium which agitates them with great rapidity, and makes them strike against the particles of the ether which surrounds them, and which are much smaller than they. But I hold also that in luminous solids such as charcoal or metal made red hot in the fire, this same movement is caused by the violent agitation of the particles of the metal or of the wood; those of them which are on the surface striking similarly against the ethereal matter.

The agitation, moreover, of the particles which engender the light ought to be much more prompt and more rapid than is that of the bodies which cause sound, since we do not see that the tremors of a body which is giving out a sound are capable of giving rise to Light, even as the movement of the hand in the air is not capable of producing Sound.

Now if one examines what this matter may be in which the movement coming from the luminous body is propagated, which I call Ethereal matter, one will see that it is not the same that serves for the propagation of Sound. For one finds that the latter is really that which we feel and which we breathe, and which being removed from any place still leaves there the other kind of matter that serves to convey Light. This may be proved by shutting up a sounding body in a glass vessel from which the air is withdrawn by the machine which Mr.

Boyle has given us, and with which he has performed so many beautiful experiments. But in doing this of which I speak, care must be taken to place the sounding body on cotton or on feathers, in such a way that it cannot communicate its tremors either to the glass vessel which encloses it, or to the machine; a precaution which has hitherto been neglected. For then after having exhausted all the air one hears no Sound from the metal, though it is struck.

One sees here not only that our air, which does not penetrate through glass, is the matter by which Sound spreads; but also that it is not the same air but another kind of matter in which Light spreads; since if the air is removed from the vessel the Light does not cease to traverse it as before.