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EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE TO THE SECOND

EDITION OF THE MATHEMATICAL TRACTS.

“THE Undulatory Theory of Optics is presented to the reader as having the same claims to his attention as the Theory of Gravitation : namely, that it is certainly true, and that, by mathematical operations of general elegance, it leads to results of great interest. With regard to the evidence for this theory; if the simplicity of a hypothesis, which explains with accuracy a vast variety of phænomena of the most complicated kind, can be considered a proof of its correctness, I believe there is no physical theory so firmly established as the theory in question. This can be felt completely, perhaps, only by the person who has both observed the phænomena and made the calculations; as to my own pretensions to the former qualification, I shall merely state that I have repeated nearly every experiment alluded to in the following Tract. This character of certainty I conceive to belong only to what may be called the geometrical part of the theory: the hypothesis, namely, that light consists of undulations depending on transversal vibrations, and that these travel with certain velocities in different media according to the laws here explained. The mechanical part of the theory, as the suppositions relative

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EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION.

to the constitution of the ether, the computation of the intensity of reflected and refracted rays, &c., though generally probable, I conceive to be far from certain.

The plan of this Tract has therefore been to include those phænomena only which admit of calculation. Many subjects are thus excluded (for instance, the absorption of light by coloured media) for which supplementary theories are still wanting. On the other hand, the investigations are applied only to phænomena which actually have been observed : as I have thought it useless to suppose imaginary combinations, where the real conditions of experiment offer so great variety.

“ The second investigation of the intensity of light reflected from a glass surface, and that of the nature of light reflected internally and totally from glass, were written as a conjectural restoration of Fresnel's investigations, when his paper was supposed to be lost. That paper has since been found and published: the only alteration which it appeared necessary to make is contained in the note attached to the latter."

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to the constitution of the ether, the computation of the intensity of reflected and refracted rays, &c., though generally probable, I conceive to be far from certain.

“ The plan of this Tract has therefore been to include those phænomena only which admit of calculation. Many subjects are thus excluded (for instance, the absorption of light by coloured media) for which supplementary theories

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