Who suggested the first theory of light


The perception of the essence of light has undergone manifold changes over the centuries. The most primitive notion of light1 goes back to the opinion of the ancient Indians that the eye, as the center of man, which was again considered to be the center of the world, has an eternal fire. According to Euclid and Ptolemy, the rays of sight should flow out of this fire as a fine haze, which to a certain extent touched things like filaments (visual ray theory). However, this anthropocentric view soon contradicted the idea that the sun and other luminous bodies must also be viewed as sources of light emitting rays. Plato therefore believed that light arises through the meeting of the rays of sight with rays emitted by luminous bodies; this was the guiding principle of his doctrine of "synaugy". Another primitive view of light, which already contains beginnings of today's, was that of Aristotle, who imagined light as a phenomenon in which a finest matter between all bodies played the mediating role. He called this substance the ether; his teaching was the oldest ether theory. Such primitive ideas also prevailed through the Middle Ages and even extended into modern times. It was not until the 17th century that the first modern light theories emerged on the basis of the then flourishing mechanics.

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This chapter is part of the Springer Book Archives digitization project with publications that have appeared since the publisher's beginnings in 1842. With this archive, the publisher provides sources for both historical and disciplinary research, which must be viewed in a historical context. This chapter is from a book that was published before 1945 and is therefore not advertised by the publisher in its political-ideological orientation typical of the time.


  1. Wiener, O .: The culture of the present, Part 3, Vol. 1: Physics. Vienna: J. B. Teubner 1915.Google Scholar
  2. Planck, M .: Lecture given at the general meeting of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society on October 18, 1919. Berlin: Julius Springer 1920.Google Scholar

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© Julius Springer in Berlin 1932

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institutes for Physical Healing Methods, Hospital of the City of Vienna, Austria