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Mathematical Treasure: Traite de la Lumiere of Huygens

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) was a Dutch mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, a true scientific polymath. In Traite de la Lumiere (1690), he presented his theory of the wave motion of light and examined the phenomena of reflection and refraction under this theory. This wave motion theory stood in direct contrast to the corpuscular theory proposed by Isaac Newton.

On pages 44-45 of this work, Huygens, with the aid of diagrams, discussed the transmission of light via his wave theory.

Here on pages 104 and 105, the author examined the transmission of light through various shaped surfaces.

The Special Collections staff at the Linderman Library of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is pleased to cooperate with the Mathematical Association of America to exhibit this and other items from the Library’s holdings in “Mathematical Treasures.” In particular, Convergence would like to thank Lois Fischer Black, Curator, Special Collections, and Ilhan Citak, Archives and Special Collections Librarian, for their kind assistance in helping to make this display possible. You may use these images in your classroom; all other uses require permission from the Special Collections staff, Linderman Library, Lehigh University.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Traite de la Lumiere of Huygens," Convergence (October 2013)