Who didn’t enjoy breaking the white light with a prism? And to think that it all started in 1664. Isaac Newton attended a country fair near Cambridge, England. He bought a pair of prisms. And unraveled the nature of light. His ideas have changed our knowledge of what we see. Today we’re going to talk about how Newton changed science.
The obsession with light
Scientists have studied the properties of light for 2000 years. They knew that the light was moving in a straight line. And that we see objects because the rays of light bounce off them. But the white sunlight was considered pure. They suspected that the colors must be a modification of it. Newton didn’t believe it.
His investigations began during a national epidemic. As a refugee at home, he started some of the most important experiments in his career.
Newton is said to have loved apples. There was the tree he was supposed to be sitting under when one of these fruits hit him on the head. When he understood the full meaning of gravity. It was there that Newton discovered the calculus.
Newton experimented with light in his room. A source of sunlight passes through a small hole and through a prism on your table. When passing through the prism, white light divides or breaks into its basic colors. It was argued that it was actually the prism that created the colors. So Newton developed the second part of this experiment. Each color received now went through a hole. And went on another prism behind it. But it no longer fell apart: it remained the same.
Newton had discovered a fundamental law of nature. “Refracted light does not change color.” The crucial experiment showed that white light consisted of several colors. The colors we see in the rainbow are unchangeable.
His work on gravity, calculation and light would make him the architect of all science in the future. When he returned to Cambridge, he began to refine his theories. Nobody agreed. His theory was incredibly unusual.
He said that white light consists of a series of rays of primary colors that come together. Everyone else claimed that colors were confusing modifications of white light. You were wrong.
For Newton, light was the key to seeing nature. He created a new telescope. Reflector with mirrors, only 15 centimeters long. The diameter increased 40 times. His understanding of refraction was the key to achieving the perfect telescope. It revolutionized the science of optics.
But how did Newton change science with a prism? Because we first learned that white light actually consists of several colors. This information influenced the work of others, such as the scientist James Clerk Maxwell from the late 19th century.
He did this when he discovered the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Without them we would not have modern communication. By revealing the real properties of light and color, Newton enabled the development of glass fiber, laser technology and holography. 350 years after Newton drew his diagram, his influence can still be felt. It even touches completely new branches of science such as cognitive behavior.
This little hand-drawn sketch on a piece of waste paper not only revolutionized scientific thinking. It also gave us a nice, unforgettable and lasting picture.