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Physics - History & Philosophical Foundations of Physics | Instrumental Traditions and Theories of Light - The Uses of Instruments in the Optical Revolution

Instrumental Traditions and Theories of Light

The Uses of Instruments in the Optical Revolution

Series: Science and Philosophy, Vol. 9

Xiang Chen

2000, XXIII, 213 p.

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  • About this book

An analysis of the optical revolution in the context of early 19th century Britain. Far from merely involving the replacement of one optical theory by another, the revolution also involved substantial changes in instruments and the practices that surrounded them. People's judgements about classification, explanation and evaluation were affected by the way they used such optical instruments as spectroscopes, telescopes, polarisers, photometers, gratings, prisms and apertures. There were two instrumental traditions in this historical period, each of which nurtured a body of practice that exemplified how optical instruments should be operated, and especially how the eye should be used. These traditions functioned just like paradigms, shaping perspectives and even world views.
Readership: Scholars and graduate students in the history of science, history of instrument, philosophy of science and science studies. Can also be used as a textbook in graduate courses on 19th century physics.

Content Level » Research

Keywords » 19th century - Prism - optical instruments - optical revolution - optical theory - philosophy of science - science - theory of light

Related subjects » Epistemology & Philosophy of Science - History & Philosophical Foundations of Physics

Table of contents 

List of Figures. Acknowledgments. Introduction. 1. Comparisons of Explanatory Power. 2. Explanatory Power and Classification. 3. Classification and the Use of Instruments. 4. The Dispute over Dispersion. 5. The Discovery of the `Polarity of Light'. 6. The Measurements of the Intensity of Light. 7. Instrumental Traditions. 8. The Geometric Tradition and the Wave Theory of Light. 9. The Visual tradition and the Closure of the Optical Revolution. Conclusion. Appendixes. Notes. References. Name Index. Subject Index.

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