Leibniz's Optics


McDonough, Jeffrey K. “Leibniz's Optics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Leibniz, edited by Maria Rosa Antognazza. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.
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Although often overlooked today, optics thrived in the early modern era as a science of first rank, engaging many of the best minds of the period and producing some of its most dramatic scientific results. The present essay attempts to shed light on Leibniz’s efforts to contribute to the development of early modern optics by focusing on his derivations of the laws of reflection and refraction. The first three sections accordingly examine Leibniz’s attempts to derive the central laws of geometrical optics in works drawn from his early, middle, and later optical studies. The fourth section briefly sketches Leibniz’s efforts to extend the sophisticated techniques found in his optical writings to related problems in natural philosophy. Connections to more familiar themes from Leibniz’s philosophy are drawn along the way.

Last updated on 02/19/2019