Introduction and History

  • John N. Dodd
Part of the Physics of Atoms and Molecules book series (PIDF)


The Greeks, of course, had a word for it: øωσ, light. During the first century B.C., the Roman poet Lucretius wrote a great poem “On the Nature of the Universe.”(1) (One may marvel that the poet of those days was interested in and understood so much science. It is perhaps more likely that Lucretius, the scientist, used poetry to express the intellectual wonderment of his subject. The tragedy is that the scientist of today is unable to express the wonder of his story in poetical ways.) His description is based on the Greek view of nature as expressed by Epicurus. Light is described in two ways: as an emission of “atoms” from a luminous source such as the sun, and also as a sloughing off of a very thin outer shell of an object, which conveys to our senses the shape, texture, color, and smell of the object.


Wave Theory Quantum Nature Source Charge Spherical Wavelet Roman Poet 
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  1. E. U. Condon and G. H. Shortley, The Theory of Atomic Spectra (University Press, Cambridge, 1935; reprint 1953 ).Google Scholar
  2. E. Whittaker, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity, Vols. 1 and 2 ( Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, 1951 ).Google Scholar
  3. M. Born and E. Wolf, Principles of Optics ( Pergamon Press, London, 1959 ).zbMATHGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • John N. Dodd
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OtagoOtagoNew Zealand

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