Theories about the nature of light

Newton’s works in the field of mechanics were very important, as were the studies and theories he developed in the field of optics. In his work entitled Optiks he developed a very broad study of luminous phenomena. Newton defended several ideas, among them the theory of the colors of bodies and his conception of the nature of light.

In antiquity, some Greek philosophers believed that light was formed by small particles, which propagated in a straight line and with high speed. These ideas remained unchanged for a long time until, around the year 1500, Leonardo da Vinci noticed the similarity between light reflection and the echo phenomenon and hypothesized that light was a wave motion. In the search for a definition of the nature of light, two currents of scientific thought emerged in the 17th century: the corpuscular theory of light, which was defended by Newton; and the wave model of light, which was advocated by Christian Huyghens. According to Isaac, light was made up of particles; Huyghens, on the other hand, defended the hypothesis that light was a wave. These two currents provoked intense polemics among the scientists of the time, a fact that marked the history of physics. However, knowledge about the true nature of light was only discovered in the 19th century, after the death of the proponents of these theories.

The corpuscular model of light

Newton tried to justify his theory by stating that light behaved like small spheres, which collided elastically with a smooth surface, being reflected so that the angle of incidence was equal to the angle of refraction. Thus, according to the phenomenon of reflection, Newton considered light to be constituted by a set of particles that are elastically reflected on a surface.

wave model

The wave model proposed and defended by Huyghens said that light was a wave and it significantly explained the reflection and refraction of light. As we know, any wave is reflected and refracted according to the laws of reflection and refraction of light beams. Observations on these phenomena led scientists to favor the wave model proposed by Huyghens, as Newton’s theory was not verified in practice.

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