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Buying the Dark Lines of the Solar Spectrum: Joseph Von Fraunhofer’s Standard for the Manufacture of Optical Glass

  • Myles W. Jackson
Chapter
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 1)

Abstract

Joseph von Fraunhofer is of interest to physicists and historians of science because of his ‘discovery’ of the dark lines dissecting the solar spectrum, which now bear his name, and his advances in the manufacture of optical lenses. Previously, scholars discussing Fraunhofer’s merits have erroneously placed him at the forefront of a long tradition of spectroscopy,1 or have portrayed him as the ‘father of German optics’ in attempting to argue for a Germanic hegemony in both the physical sciences and optical industry.2

Keywords

Solar Spectrum Dark Line Optical Glass Chromatic Aberration Royal Greenwich Observatory 
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Notes

  1. 1a.
    See, for example: M.A. Sutton, “Spectroscopy and the Chemists: A Neglected Opportunity”, Ambix xxiii (1976), 16–26;Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    See, for example: M.A. Sutton, “Spectroscopy and the Chemists: A Neglected Opportunity”, Ambix xxiii (1976), 16–26 ,Google Scholar
  3. 1c.
    See, for example: M.A. Sutton Spectroscopy and the Structure of Matter: A Study in the Development of Physical Chemistry (D.Phil., Oxford, 1972)Google Scholar
  4. 1d.
    W. McGucken, Nineteenth-Century Spectroscopy: Development of the Understanding of Spectra 1802–1897 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969), see particularly, 4–10. Frank James has correctly argued that such histories incorrectly describe the emergence of spectroscopy as a singular, continuous process of elaboration stretching back to Fraunhofer and extending forward from him to Gustav Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen’s establishment of the relationship between absorption and emission lines.Google Scholar
  5. 1e.
    Frank A.J.L. James, “The Creation of a Victorian Myth: the Historiography of Spectroscopy”, History of Science xxiii (1985), pp. 1–24.Google Scholar
  6. 2a.
    A selected bibliography of Fraunhofer’s hagiography includes: R. Bunsen and G. Kirchhoff, “Chemische Analyse durch Spectralbeobachtungen,” in Poggendorffs Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1860), pp. 161–189Google Scholar
  7. 2b.
    Hermann von Helmholtz, “Festbericht über die Gedenkfeier zur hundertjährigen Wiederkehr des Geburtstages Josef [sic] Fraunhofer’s,” in Zeitschrift für Instrumentenkunde VII (1887): 114–128Google Scholar
  8. 2c.
    Carl Max von Bauernfeind, Gedächnisrede auf Joseph von Fraunhofer zur Feier seines hundertsten Geburtstags (Munich: Verlag der königlichen bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1887)Google Scholar
  9. 2d.
    A. Seitz, Joseph Fraunhofer und sein Optisches Institut (Berlin: Julius Springer, 1926); 150. Todesjahr Joseph von Fraunhofers 1787–1826. Reden und Ansprachen, ed. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (Ingolstadt: Courier-Druckhaus, 1976);Google Scholar
  10. 2e.
    Sigmund Merz, Das Leben und Wirken Fraunhofers, (Landshut: Joseph Thomann’schen Buchhandlung, 1865);Google Scholar
  11. 2f.
    Ernst Abbe, “Gedächtnissrede auf Joseph Fraunhofer,” in Gesammelte Abhandlungen II, Wissenschaftliche Abhandlungen aus verschiedenen Gebieten Patentschriften Gedächtnisreden (Hildesheim, Zürich and New York: Georg Olms, 1989), pp. 319–338 and the many works by Moritz von Rohr, including, most noteably, his biography, Joseph Fraunhofers Leben, Leistungen und Wirksamkeit (Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1929).Google Scholar
  12. 2g.
    Two more recent works have provided more nuanced accounts of Fraunhofer’s life within a particular social and political context: Günther D. Roth, Joseph von Fraunhofer. Handwerker-Forscher-Akademiemitglied, 1787–1826 (Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1976)Google Scholar
  13. 2h.
    Hans-Peter Sang, Joseph von Fraunhofer. Forscher. Erfinder. Unternehmer (Munich: Dr. Peter Glas, 1987).Google Scholar
  14. 3.
    See, for example, Jed Z. Buchwald, The Rise of the Wave Theory of Light. Optical Theory and Experiment in the Early Nineteenth Century (London and Chicago: The Univeristy of Chicago Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  15. 4a.
    The law was widely disseminated in eighteenth and early nineteenth-century texts. See, for example, P. Rogerii Josephi Boscovich, Dissertationes Quinque ad Dioptricum, (Vindobonae: Johannis Thomae, 1767)Google Scholar
  16. 4b.
    Georg Simon Klügel, Analytische Dioptrik in zwey Theilen. Der erste enthällt die allgemeine Theorie der optischen Werkzeuge: der zwey te die besondere Theorie und vortheilhafteste Einrichtung aller Gattungen von Fernröhren, Spiegelteleskopen, und Mikroskopen, (Leipzig: Johann Friedrich Junius, 1778). Fraunhofer used the latter of these two texts extensively while manufacturing achromatic lenses.Google Scholar
  17. 5.
    Deutsches Museum, Handschriften und Urkunden Sammlung, 5343 (Geschichte Fraunhofers und des Optischen Instituts).Google Scholar
  18. 6.
    See, for example, XXVII (February 1813), pp. 197–9. Pater Ulrich Schiegg discussed the Optical Institute’s merits during his report of the Bavarian triangulation project, “Astronomische Nachrichten aus Bayern,” ibid., XII (1805), pp. 357–63, here pp. 361–2.Google Scholar
  19. 7.
    See, for example, II (1816), pp. 165–72.Google Scholar
  20. 8.
    Johann Joseph Prechtl, Praktische Dioptrik als vollständige und gemeinfaßliche Anleitung zur Verfertigung achromatischer Fernröhre. Nach den neuesten Verbesserungen und Hülfsmitteln und eignen Erfahrungen (Vienna: J.G. Heubner, 1828), p. 178. Note that this list was published after Fraunhofer’s death. But price lists were published in other optical texts from about 1818 onwards.Google Scholar
  21. 9.
    Gauss ordered one meridian circle, two passage instruments, an equatoreal and two astronomical pendulum clocks from the Optical Institute. See, for example, Hans-Peter Sang (1987), “Chemische Analyse durch Spectralbeobachtungen,” in Poggendorffs Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1860), pp. 99.Google Scholar
  22. 10.
    Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, Utzschneider Nachlaß Kasten 1, Briefe an Fraunhofer: 9, 15 and 16 July 1814.Google Scholar
  23. 11.
    Joseph von Fraunhofer’s Gesammelte Schriften. Im Auftrage der Mathematisch-Physikalischen Classe der königlichen bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, E. Lommel (ed.), (Munich: Verlag der königlichen Akademie in Commission bei G. Franz, 1888), pp. 3–31, The article originally appeared in Denkschriften der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München für die Jahre 1814 u. 1815, Bd. V (not published until 1817). Fraunhofer sent this paper to his good friend, the mathematician, ordnance surveyor and member of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Johann von Soldner. Inclusion into this periodical meant instant recognition as a Naturwissenschaftler, something that the working-class artisan desperately sought. Indeed, as a result of the merits of this essay, Fraunhofer became a corresponding member of the Academy in 1817. All references to this work will be cited Fraunhofer, followed by the page number corresponding to Lommel’s edited collection.Google Scholar
  24. 12.
    Fraunhofer, p. 3.Google Scholar
  25. 13.
    Fraunhofer, p. 27.Google Scholar
  26. 14.
    FraunhoferGoogle Scholar
  27. 15.
    David Brewster also attempted unsuccessfully to isolate monochromatic light. David Brewster, “Description of a Monochromatic Lamp for Microscopial Purposes, & c. with the Remarks on the Absorption of the Prismatic Rays by Coloured Media,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 9 (1823), 433–44.Google Scholar
  28. 16.
    Note that there can be an overlap of colors from the intermittent lamps, i.e. the lamp adjacent to B might supply prism H with a small portion of violet rays as well. However, since prisms map angle onto position, and since all of the incident rays strike prism H at the same angle (as a result of the large distance between the two prisms), all lamp light of the same wavelength will be mapped onto the same position as seen by the telescope of the theodolite.Google Scholar
  29. 17.
    Note that the symmetric passage is for the D line.Google Scholar
  30. 18.
    Fraunhofer, p. 10.Google Scholar
  31. 19.
    Fraunhofer, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  32. 20.
    See note 4, Boscovich, p. 142.Google Scholar
  33. 21.
    Chromatic aberration can be corrected in part by constructing a convex-concave lens combination made of flint and crown glass. This lens combination focuses the red and violet rays only into a point. It would take the combined effort of Otto Schott and Ernst Abbe in the 1880s to correct the red, violet and yellow rays.Google Scholar
  34. 23.
    Myles W. Jackson, “Artisanal Knowledge and Experimental Natural Philosophers: The British Response to Joseph Fraunhofer and the Bavarian Usurpation of Their Optical Empire,” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 25 (1994), pp. 549–75, particularly 561–74.Google Scholar
  35. 24.
    Edinburgh Journal of Science 2 (1825), 344–8, see p. 348.Google Scholar
  36. 25.
    “Remarks on Dr Goring’s Observation on the Use of Monochromatic Light with the Microscope”, Edinburgh Journal of Science 5 (1831), pp. 153–8, p. 154.Google Scholar
  37. 26.
    David Brewster. A Treatise on Optics (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green and John Taylor, 1831), p. 67.Google Scholar
  38. 27a.
    David Brewster, “Description of a Monochromatic Lamp”, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 9 (1823), 433–44.Google Scholar
  39. 27b.
    See also Frank A.J.L. James, “The Discovery of Line Spectra,” Ambix 32 (1985), 53–70, here 59–60.Google Scholar
  40. 28.
    Charles Babbage, Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of its Causes (London: B. Fellowes, 1830), pp. 210–11 and Edinburgh Journal of Science 2 (1825), pp. 344–8.Google Scholar
  41. 29.
    Babbage, Reflections on the Decline, (London: B. Fellowes, 1830), pp. 210–11 1 (italics in the original).Google Scholar
  42. 30a.
    J.F.W. Herschel, “On a Remarkable Peculiarity in the Law of the Extraordinary Refraction of differently-coloured Rays exhibited by certain Varieties of Apophyllite”, Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society I (1822), 241–7, especially 244–5. This paper was read on 7 May 1821 at the Philosophical Society of Cambridge. Indeed, as will be discussed below, Herschel later attempted to explain those lines by using wave optics.Google Scholar
  43. 30b.
    See J.W.F. Herschel, “On the absorption of light by coloured media, viewed in connexion with the undulatory theory” in Report of the British Association (1833), 373–4. The full paper appeared in The Philosophical Magazine iii (1833), 401–12.Google Scholar
  44. 31.
    Frank A.J.L. James, “The Debate on the Nature of the Absorption of Light 1820–1835: A Core-Set Analysis” in History of Science 21 (1983), 335–68.Google Scholar
  45. 32.
    For the use of “theoretical technologies”, see Andrew C. Warwick, “Cambridge Mathematics and Cavendish Physics: Cunningham, Campbell and Einstein’s Relativity 1905–1911”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 23 (1992), 635–56 and 24 (1993), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 33a.
    James “The Debate” (1983), History of Science 21 , 340.Google Scholar
  47. 33b.
    See also David Brewster, “Observations of the lines of the solar spectrum, and on those produced by the Earth’s atmosphere, and by the action of nitrous acid gas”, in Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. xii (1833), 519–30.Google Scholar
  48. 34.
    See The Debate” (1983), History of Science 21 , 340–41 for details.Google Scholar
  49. 35.
    David Brewster, “Observations on the absorption of specific rays, in reference to the undulatory theory of light” in The Philosophical Magazine ii (1833), 360–3, particularly 363.Google Scholar
  50. 36.
    Herschel, “On the absorption of light”, in Report of the British Association (1833), 406.Google Scholar
  51. 37.
    J.W.F. Herschel, “Sound” in Encyclopaeida metropolitana ii (1830), 747–825.Google Scholar
  52. 38.
    Myles W Jackson, “Illuminating the Opacity of Achromatic-Lens Production” forthcoming in Architecture and Science, edited by Peter Galison and Emily Thompson (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  53. 39.
    Myles W Jackson, “Illuminating the Opacity of Achromatic-Lens Production” forthcoming in Architecture and Science, edited by Peter Galison and Emily Thompson (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  54. 40.
    Although Fraunhofer himself was convinced that one could construct his lenses and prisms only if one witnessed this artisanal labor, Utzschneider nevertheless guaranteed that the knowledge of optical glass maunfacture remained a secret by not permitting Fraunhofer to reveal the recipes. It is interesting to note that as Fraunhofer lay on his death bed, Utzschneider had his assistant take from the dying Fraunhofer an account of in the production of achromatic glass. Not surprisingly, Utzschneider could not replicate Fraunhoferian quality prisms and lenses from merely reading Fraunhofer’s notes.Google Scholar
  55. 41a.
    Cambridge University Library (Manuscripts Room) Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives (henceforth CUL.RGO) 14/8, folia 17–20. Frank A.J.L. James has argued that the Royal Society Subcommittee was created to bail out the financially doomed Board of Longitude. See his “Time, Tide and Michael Faraday”, History Today (1991), 22–34, particularly 30–1Google Scholar
  56. 41b.
    Frank A.J.L. James “The Military Context of Chemistry: the Case of Michael Faraday” in Bulletin of the History of Chemistry, 11 (1991), 36–40, particularly 37–8. I shall take another line, as the reader will see. I think that both James’s point and mine need to be considered as joint reasons for the Subcommittee’s creation. They certainly are not mutually exclusive.Google Scholar
  57. 42.
    CUL.RGO 14/8.20. This was an Act of Parliament.Google Scholar
  58. 43.
    Royal Society Committee Minutes Book (henceforth RS CMB).1.127 and The Royal Society Manuscripts (RS DM) Vol. III, Folia 26 and RS DM.III.22.Google Scholar
  59. 44.
    RS CMB.1. 96.Google Scholar
  60. 45.
    Michael Faraday, “On the Manufacture of Glass for Optical Purposes,” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 120 (1830), 1–57, here, p. 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 46.
    Michael Faraday, “On the Manufacture of Glass for Optical Purposes,” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 120 (1830), 1–57, here, p. 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 47.
    Günther D. Roth. Joseph von Fraunhofer. Handwerker-Forscher-Akademiemitglied 1787–1826 (Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft MbH, 1976), p. 120.Google Scholar
  63. 48.
    RS CMB.1. 158–9 and RS DM.III.41.Google Scholar
  64. 49.
    In the original maunscript, M. Guinand’s name was written, then crossed out, and Bontemps’s name was added. The ‘late’ referred to Guinand, not Bontemps.Google Scholar
  65. 50.
    RS CMB.1.211 and RS DM.III.53.Google Scholar
  66. 51.
    RS DM.III.63–70.Google Scholar
  67. 52.
    RS DM.III.63.Google Scholar
  68. 53.
    RS DM.III.62.Google Scholar
  69. 54.
    This was reported by Roget to Bontemps on 31 December 1828, RS DM.III.67.Google Scholar
  70. 55.
    Fraunhofer, “Ueber die Construktion des so eben vollendenten grossen Refraktors”, Joseph von Fraunhofers’ Gesammelte Werke, op. cit., note 11, pp. 169–70; for an English translation of this essay, see The Philosophical Magazine and Journal xvi (1825), pp. 41–7, here p. 43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Myles W. Jackson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History, the Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine, the Committee of the Conceptual Foundations of ScienceThe University of ChicagoUSA

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