From Sight To Light: The Passage From Ancient To Modern Optics by A. Mark Smith

From Sight To Light: The Passage From Ancient To Modern Optics

byA. Mark Smith

Hardcover | December 26, 2014

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From its inception in Greek antiquity, the science of optics was aimed primarily at explaining sight and accounting for why things look as they do. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the analytic focus of optics had shifted to light: its fundamental properties and such physical behaviors as reflection, refraction, and diffraction. This dramatic shift—which A. Mark Smith characterizes as the “Keplerian turn”—lies at the heart of this fascinating and pioneering study.       
Breaking from previous scholarship that sees Johannes Kepler as the culmination of a long-evolving optical tradition that traced back to Greek antiquity via the Muslim Middle Ages, Smith presents Kepler instead as marking a rupture with this tradition, arguing that his theory of retinal imaging, which was published in 1604, was instrumental in prompting the turn from sight to light. Kepler’s new theory of sight, Smith reveals, thus takes on true historical significance: by treating the eye as a mere light-focusing device rather than an image-producing instrument—as traditionally understood—Kepler’s account of retinal imaging helped spur the shift in analytic focus that eventually led to modern optics. 
A sweeping survey, From Sight to Light is poised to become the standard reference for historians of optics as well as those interested more broadly in the history of science, the history of art, and cultural and intellectual history.

About The Author

A. Mark Smith is a Curators’ Professor of History at the University of Missouri–Columbia. Among his numerous publications is an eight-volume critical Latin edition and English translation of Alhacen’s De aspectibus.

Details & Specs

Title:From Sight To Light: The Passage From Ancient To Modern OpticsFormat:HardcoverDimensions:480 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:December 26, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022617476X

ISBN - 13:9780226174761

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Extra Content

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 The Emergence of Optics as a Science: The Greek and Early Greco-Roman Background

1 Early Intimations
2 Physical and Psychological Theories of Vision
3 The Anatomical and Physiological Grounds of Vision
4 Theories of Color and Color Perception
5 The Euclidean Visual Ray Theory
6 Euclidean Catoptrics
7 Burning Mirrors and the Analysis of Focal Properties
8 Conclusion

Chapter 3 Ptolemy and the Flowering of Greek Optics

1 The Ptolemaic Account of Visual Perception
2 The Ptolemaic Account of Reflection
3 The Ptolemaic Account of Refraction
4 Atmospheric Refraction and the Moon Illusion
5 Conclusion

Chapter 4 Greco-Roman and Early Arabic Developments

1 Plotinus’s Theory of Visual Perception
2 The Later De anima Commentators
3 Saint Augustine’s Psychological Model: The Inward Ascent
4 The Arabic Transition: The De anima Tradition
5 The Arabic Transition: Geometrical Optics
6 Conclusion

Chapter 5 Alhacen and the Grand Synthesis

1 The Elements of Alhacen’s Analysis
2 Visual Discrimination, Perception, and Conception
3 Reflection and Its Visual Manifestations
4 Refraction and Its Visual Manifestations
5 Conclusion

Chapter 6 Developments in the Medieval Latin West

1 Background to the Translation Movement
2 The Translation Movement and the Inroads of Aristotelianism
3 The Scholastic Analysis of Perception and Cognition
4 Geometrical Optics and the Evolving Science of Perspectiva
5 Conclusion

Chapter 7 The Assimilation of Perspectivist Optics during the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance

1 Optics as a Quadrivial Pursuit in the Arts Curriculum
2 Theology and the Emergence of Optical Literacy
3 Optical Motifs in Literature
4 Renaissance Art, Naturalism, and Optics
5 Conclusion

Chapter 8 The Keplerian Turn and Its Technical Background

1 Technological, Social, and Cultural Changes: 1450–1600
2 Rethinking Concave Mirrors and Convex Lenses
3 Rethinking the Eye
4 Kepler’s Analysis of Retinal Imaging
5 The Analytic Turn
6 The Epistemological Turn
7 Conclusion

Chapter 9 The Seventeenth-Century Response

1 The Conceptual and Cultural Context for the Keplerian Turn
2 Extending Vision in Both Directions
3 New Theories of Light
4 Recasting Color
5 The Epistemological Consequences
6 Conclusion

Editorial Reviews

“No one doubts Kepler’s contribution to optics and vision.  But here, as never before, his ancient and medieval debts are set in deeper historical context, and importantly, his dramatic departures are carefully reassessed and critically revised. Smith’s fresh interpretation of the Western optical tradition—impressive in scope and rigor, and written with remarkable clarity—will likely become a classic.”