E88 -- Nova theoria lucis et colorum

(A new theory of light and colors)


The Nova Theoria was a highly influential tract in the study of physical optics. Casper Hakfoort's Optics in the Age of Euler (Cambridge University Press, 1995) provides a detailed study of E88, along with several of Euler's papers on optics. He demonstrates the importance of E88, going so far as to show that the wave-particle duality debate in optics really began with Euler's publication of this work.
The opening two sentences of his chapter on the Nova Theora are worth quoting:
When Leonhard Euler published [E88] in 1746, he made a contribution to the medium tradition in physics optics that was without parallel in the eighteenth century. The 'Nova Theoria' constitutes the most lucid, comprehensive, and systematic medium theory of that century.
(Euler Archive note: the 'medium' theory quote here refers to the wave theory of light -- to have a wave theory, the light must through a medium.)

According to the remark at the top of the first page of the abstract, a treatise with this title was read to the Berlin Academy on February 6, 1744, but only the abstract appeared in French (“Sur la lumière et les couleurs”) in Hist. de l’acad. d. sc. de Berlin [1] (1745), 1746, pp. 17-24. This reading does not seem to have been well received (again, see Hakfoort), and Euler reworked and expanded some of his ideas for the publication for E88.

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