How Did Sir Isaac Newton Discover Optics?

did-sir-isaac-newton-discover-optics Credit: Han Cheng Yeh/CC-BY-2.0

In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton discovered optics while examining a lighted refracted from a crystal prism and observing that light consisted of a full spectrum of color. In 1704, he published a book detailing his findings titled "Opticks."

In 1668, Isaac Newton invented the first reflecting telescope, known now as a Newtonian telescope. The Royal Society asked him to demonstrate his invention in 1671. The interest in his reflecting telescope prompted him to publish his detailed notes, called "On Colour." This publication served as the basis for "Opticks."

Newton first began to investigate refracted light further while lecturing between 1670 and 1672. During this time, he noted the properties of light and color. He was able to reconstruct refracted light into white light and ultimately concluded that colored light retains its properties no matter how it is dispersed. This conclusion asserted that objects do not generate their own color, but that color is instead the result of an object's interaction with colored light.

From these observations, "Newton's Theory of Color" was established and prompted Newton to begin working on his own telescope in order to prove his theory. In 1699, Isaac Newton invented the reflected quadrant to measure the distance between the moon and stars, further putting his color theory to the test.