Ray diagrams, 1704.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 27cm x 32cm

Ray diagrams, 1704.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Page of diagrams from Newton's 'Opticks', (1704). Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) discovered that by refracting light through a prism, white light was dispersed into its constituent colours. If one colour was selected and refracted through a second prism, no further colours were introduced, showing that colours were a property of light and not the prism. Newton's discovery that it was imposible to focus an image distinctly using a single lens led him to build the world's first reflecting telescope.

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