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Gateway to Spectroscopy > Physical Background > History of Spectroscopy > Mid 19th century

Mid 19th century

In 1832, J F Herschel described the specific coloration given to flames by metal salts. This was the first spectrochemistry observation, from which major work on emission spectra originated. It was fast found that emission spectra include bright lines at set locations.

  • 1835 - Schwerd developed a "wave" theory of the diffraction grating.
  • 1837 - Knox discovered that the conductivity of selenium changes with illumination.
  • 1840 - Joseph Max Petzval (1807-1891) made the first portrait camera lens.
  • 1842 - Doppler discovered the effect named after him, that the wavelength of light changes with the speed of the source relative to the observer.
  • 1845 - Michael Faraday (1791-1867) observed that a magnetic field could rotate the plane of polarization of light.
  • 1850 - Foucault showed that light travels more slowly in water than in air, as predicted by wave theory.

[Masson's spectroscope]

M A Masson introduced in 1851 the apparatus shown above. This is the first spark emission spectrometer known. The set-up consists of a prism mounted on a Duboscq goniometer with a rather complete sparking source. Underneath the set-up are records of the position of iron and copper emission lines in the visible domain.

  • 1856 - Ludwig Philipp van Seidel (1821-1896) derived the theory of third order aberration.

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

First published on the web: 15 December 1999.