The Spectroscopy Net
Gateway to Spectroscopy > Physical Background > History of Spectroscopy > 300 BC -1800

300 BC -1800

  • 300 BC - Euclid discussed the focus of a spherical mirror.
  • 50 AD - Cleomedes discussed the refraction of light.
  • 139 AD - Claudius Ptolemy made detailed tables on the reflection and refraction of light.
  • ~1010 - Althazen (965-1038) described the planar nature of reflection.
  • 1304 - Theodoric of Freiberg explained the water-droplet origins of rainbows.
  • ~1500 - Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) mentioned diffraction in his notebooks.
  • 1608 - Hans Lippershey made one of the first telescopes. Shortly afterwards, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) made a telescope and turned it to the heavens.
  • ~1609 - Zacarias Joannides made the first microscope.
  • ~1620 - Willebrord Snell van Royen (1591-1626) discovered the law of refraction.
  • 1637 - Descartes derived the law of refraction theoretically.
  • 1663 - Robert Boyle (1627-1691) first observed interference rings, now known as Newton's rings.

Chromatic decomposition of light had been known for a long time, if only through the rainbow. In the second half of the 17th century, Isaac Newton named "spectrum" the coloured figure obtained by scattering sunlight through a prism. Beginning in 1666, Newton demonstrated the fixity of the colours thus formed, and synthesized white light by mixing these colours.

[Newton's experiment with light spectrum]

Chromatic decomposition of light had been known for a long time, if only through the rainbow. In the second half of the 17th century, Isaac Newton named "spectrum" the coloured figure obtained by scattering sunlight through a prism. Beginning in 1666, Newton demonstrated the fixity of the colours thus formed, and synthesized white light by mixing these colours.

  • 1669 - Bartholinus discovered the polarisation of light by Iceland spar.
  • 1678 - Römer determined the speed of light, by observing Jupiter's moons.
  • 1690 - Christian Huygens (1629-1695) proposed a wave theory of light.
  • 1728 - Bradley discovered the aberration of light.
  • 1729 - Chester Moor-Hall (1704-1771) and John Dollond (1760-1761) made the first aberration-corrected lens.
  • 1752 - T Melvill published first observation of a line spectrum.
  • 1800 - W Herschel discovered the Infrared, by its heating effect.

Authors: Jean Charles Lefebvre, Jobin-Yvon Emission, and Richard Payling, Surface Analytical

Reference: R D Guenther, Modern Optics, John Wiley & Sons, New York (1990).