Sunday, December 02, 2007

Unravelling the Texture of Light

Reading Todhunter on Whewell (1876), I came across the interesting phrase, "Newton unravelled the texture of solar light," which strikes the ear nicely. Todhunter doesn't explicitly tell us who is the source, but simply says it is "a favourite expression of one of the most eminent of living scientific lectures" (p. 330). I find that the expression is found in John Tyndall's lectures on radiation (1865); a similar expression is also found in his lectures on light (delivered 1872-1873). Todhunter himself borrows the expression in the section on light in his book on natural philosophy (1877). The same phrase applied to Newton's work with light is used in a review of books on the life of Newton that ultimately comes from the Edinburgh Review (1844); this review, as far as I am aware, is anonymous.