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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index N > Sir Isaac Newton Quotes > Light

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Sir Isaac Newton
(25 Dec 1642 - 20 Mar 1727)

English physicist and mathematician who made seminal discoveries in several areas of science, and was the leading scientist of his era.



Qu. 31. Have not the small Particles of Bodies certain Powers, Virtues or Forces, by which they act at a distance, not only upon the Rays of Light for reflecting, refracting and reflecting them, but also upon one another for producing a great part of the Phænomena of Nature?
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 350.
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And if one look through a Prism upon a white Object encompassed with blackness or darkness, the reason of the Colours arising on the edges is much the same, as will appear to one that shall a little consider it. If a black Object be encompassed with a white one, the Colours which appear through the Prism are to be derived from the Light of the white one, spreading into the Regions of the black, and therefore they appear in a contrary order to that, when a white Object is surrounded with black. And the same is to be understood when an Object is viewed, whose parts are some of them less luminous than others. For in the borders of the more and less luminous Parts, Colours ought always by the same Principles to arise from the Excess of the Light of the more luminous, and to be of the same kind as if the darker parts were black, but yet to be more faint and dilute.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book I, Part 2, Prop. VIII, Prob. III, 123.
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Are not all Hypotheses erroneous, in which Light is supposed to consist in Pression or Motion, propagated through a fluid Medium? For in all these Hypotheses the Phaenomena of Light have been hitherto explain'd by supposing that they arise from new Modifications of the Rays; which is an erroneous Supposition.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks, 2nd edition (1718), Book 3, Query 28, 337.
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Do not Bodies and Light act mutually upon one another; that is to say, Bodies upon Light in emitting, reflecting, refracting and inflecting it, and Light upon Bodies for heating them, and putting their parts into a vibrating motion wherein heat consists?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query 5, 133.
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Do not great Bodies conserve their heat the longest, their parts heating one another, and may not great dense and fix'd Bodies, when heated beyond a certain degree, emit Light so copiously, as by the Emission and Re-action of its Light, and the Reflexions and Refractions of its Rays within its Pores to grow still hotter, till it comes to a certain period of heat, such as is that of the Sun?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query II, 135.
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For nature is a perpetuall circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, and solids out of fluids, fixed things out of volatile, & volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, & gross out of subtile, Some things to ascend & make the upper terrestriall juices, Rivers and the Atmosphere; & by consequence others to descend for a Requitall to the former. And as the Earth, so perhaps may the Sun imbibe this spirit copiously to conserve his Shineing, & keep the Planets from recedeing further from him. And they that will, may also suppose, that this Spirit affords or carryes with it thither the solary fewell & materiall Principle of Light; And that the vast aethereall Spaces between us, & the stars are for a sufficient repository for this food of the Sunn and Planets.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Oldenburg (7 Dec 1675). In H. W. Turnbull (ed.), The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 1661-1675 (1959), Vol. 1, 366.
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From this fountain (the free will of God) it is those laws, which we call the laws of nature, have flowed, in which there appear many traces of the most wise contrivance, but not the least shadow of necessity. These therefore we must not seek from uncertain conjectures, but learn them from observations and experimental. He who is presumptuous enough to think that he can find the true principles of physics and the laws of natural things by the force alone of his own mind, and the internal light of his reason, must either suppose the world exists by necessity, and by the same necessity follows the law proposed; or if the order of Nature was established by the will of God, the [man] himself, a miserable reptile, can tell what was fittest to be done.
— Sir Isaac Newton
…...
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From what has been said it is also evident, that the Whiteness of the Sun's Light is compounded all the Colours wherewith the several sorts of Rays whereof that Light consists, when by their several Refrangibilities they are separated from one another, do tinge Paper or any other white Body whereon they fall. For those Colours ... are unchangeable, and whenever all those Rays with those their Colours are mix'd again, they reproduce the same white Light as before.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 2, Exper. XV, 114.
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I have been much amused at ye singular φενόμενα [phenomena] resulting from bringing of a needle into contact with a piece of amber or resin fricated on silke clothe. Ye flame putteth me in mind of sheet lightning on a small—how very small—scale.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Dr. Law (15 Dec 1716) as quoted in Norman Lockyer, (ed.), Nature (25 May 1881), 24, 39. The source refers to it as an unpublished letter. Newton's comment relating the spark of static electricity with lightning long predates the work of Benjamin Franklin.
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If the Humours of the Eye by old Age decay, so as by shrinking to make the Cornea and Coat of the Crystalline Humour grow flatter than before, the Light will not be refracted enough, and for want of a sufficient Refraction will not converge to the bottom of the Eye but to some place beyond it, and by consequence paint in the bottom of the Eye a confused Picture, and according to the Indistinctuess of this Picture the Object will appear confused. This is the reason of the decay of sight in old Men, and shews why their Sight is mended by Spectacles. For those Convex glasses supply the defect of plumpness in the Eye, and by increasing the Refraction make the rays converge sooner, so as to convene distinctly at the bottom of the Eye if the Glass have a due degree of convexity. And the contrary happens in short-sighted Men whose Eyes are too plump. For the Refraction being now too great, the Rays converge and convene in the Eyes before they come at the bottom; and therefore the Picture made in the bottom and the Vision caused thereby will not be distinct, unless the Object be brought so near the Eye as that the place where the converging Rays convene may be removed to the bottom, or that the plumpness of the Eye be taken off and the Refractions diminished by a Concave-glass of a due degree of Concavity, or lastly that by Age the Eye grow flatter till it come to a due Figure: For short-sighted Men see remote Objects best in Old Age, and therefore they are accounted to have the most lasting Eyes.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 1, Axiom VII, 10-11.
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Is not Fire a Body heated so hot as to emit Light copiously? For what else is a red hot Iron than Fire? And what else is a burning Coal than red hot Wood?
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 3, Query 9, 134.
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My Design in this Book is not to explain the Properties of Light by Hypotheses, but to propose and prove them by Reason and Experiments: In order to which, I shall premise the following Definitions and Axioms.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 1, Part 1, Introduction, 1.
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Now if Light be reflected, not by impinging on the solid parts of Bodies, but by some other principle; it's probable that as many of its Rays as impinge on the solid parts of Bodies are not reflected but stifled and lost in the Bodies. For otherwise we must allow two sorts of Reflexions. Should all the Rays be reflected which impinge on the internal parts of clear Water or Crystal, those Substances would rather have a cloudy Colour than a clear Transparency. To make Bodies look black, it's necessary that many Rays be stopp'd, retained, and lost in them; and it seems not probable that any Rays can be stopp'd and stifled in them which do not impinge on their parts.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks (1704), Book 2, Part 3, Prop. VIII, 69.
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Now, that this whiteness is a Mixture of the severally colour’d rays, falling confusedly on the paper, I see no reason to doubt of.
— Sir Isaac Newton
In 'Answer to some Considerations upon his Doctrine of Light and Colors', Philosophical Transactions (18 Nov 1672), 7, No. 88, 5100. The considerations were from Robert Hooke.
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Seeing therefore the variety of Motion which we find in the World is always decreasing, there is a necessity of conserving and recruiting it by active Principles, such as are the cause of Gravity, by which Planets and Comets keep their Motions in their Orbs, and Bodies acquire great Motion in falling; and the cause of Fermentation, by which the Heart and Blood of Animals are kept in perpetual Motion and Heat; the inward Parts of the Earth are constantly warm'd, and in some places grow very hot; Bodies burn and shine, Mountains take fire, the Caverns of the Earth are blown up, and the Sun continues violently hot and lucid, and warms all things by his Light. For we meet with very little Motion in the World, besides what is owing to these active Principles.
— Sir Isaac Newton
From Opticks, (1704, 2nd ed. 1718), Book 3, Query 31, 375.
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The changing of Bodies into Light, and Light into Bodies, is very conformable to the Course of Nature, which seems delighted with Transmutations.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Opticks, 2nd edition (1718), Book 3, Query 30, 349.
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Why there is one Body in or System qualified to give Light and Heat to all ye rest, I know no reason, but because ye author of the Systeme thought it convenient.
— Sir Isaac Newton
Letter to Bentley (10 Dec 1692). In The Works of Richard Bentley (1838), Vol. 3, 204.
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See also:
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  • Isaac Newton - biography from Famous Men of Science (1889)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Impressed force is the action” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Impressed force is the action” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Inherent force of matter is the power of resisting…” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Plato is my friend” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Colours which appear through the Prism ” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Colours which appear through the Prism ” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Nature does nothing in vain” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Nature does nothing in vain” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “No more causes of natural things should be admitted” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “No more causes of natural things should be admitted” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
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  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “God, in the beginning, formed matter” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “God, in the beginning, formed matter” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “The cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Isaac Newton - context of quote “The cause of gravity is what I do not pretend to know” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple-Tree - debunking the myth, from Historic Ninepins: A Book of Curiosities by John Timbs (1869)
  • Newton and the Dog - debunking the myth about Newton’s dog Diamond.
  • Booklist for Isaac Newton.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton


by Ian Ellis
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