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Centennial of the Undulatory Theory of Light

Epstein, Paul S. (1926) Centennial of the Undulatory Theory of Light. Science, 63 (1633). pp. 387-393. ISSN 0036-8075. doi:10.1126/science.63.1633.387.

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A hundred years ago physical science received one of the greatest contributions ever made by a single man. This achievement was the establishment of the undulatory theory of light by the Frenchman, Augustin Fresnel. The work of this extraordinary man put the theory of optics on an entirely new foundation and inaugurated a steady evolution of this discipline which continues up to the present time. Beyond this, it had a stimulating and inspiring influence on other branches of physics having no apparent connection with the theory of light. It would be an interesting problem to look back on a century of scientific work and to analyze what concepts have stood the test of a hundred years. However, our present intention is a different one. A retrospective glance at the time of Augustin Fresnel and the scientific atmosphere in which he lived has still another purely human interest. It gives us an opportunity to trace step by step the resistance which a new and revolutionary idea finds in its way and to see how this resistance is gradually overcome. The fate of new concepts defying tradition is always the same: In the beginning they meet with a strong opposition rejecting them sometimes with a cold disdain, sometimes with passionate irritability. Slowly and gradually the new theory obtains a reluctant acceptance. The contemporaries raised in different views finally resign themselves to it and only the following generation is in a position to admire and praise it without inhibitions.

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Additional Information:© 1926 American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read in a public session of the Astronomy and Physics Club of Pasadena, California.
Issue or Number:1633
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20141212-165313840
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Official Citation:Centennial of the Undulatory Theory of Light Paul S. Epstein Science, New Series, Vol. 63, No. 1633 (Apr. 16, 1926), pp. 387-393 Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science Article Stable URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:52795
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:15 Dec 2014 16:28
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 19:43

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