A. Mark SmithFrom Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics

University of Chicago Press, 2015

by Carla Nappi on March 21, 2015

A. Mark Smith

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A. Mark Smith’s new book is a magisterial history of optics over the course of two millennia. From Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics (University of Chicago Press, 2015) suggests that the transition from ancient toward modern optics was accompanied by a turn in optical studies from a concern with explaining sight to a focus on light by optical scholars. The book argues that Kepler’s theory of retinal imaging was instrumental in this turn. In the course of an amazingly comprehensive narrative of optical studies from Aristotle through the seventeenth century, From Sight to Light offers clear and persuasive discussions of the historical understanding of color and of visual illusions, the use of mirrors as optical devices, the relationships between physical and psychological theories of visual perception, and the study of reflection and refraction. Smith pays special attention to explaining the mathematical bases of optical theories, and he highlights the formative role that Arabic scientists and translation played in the history of optics. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of sight, vision, light, and the study thereof

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