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Newton the Alchemist$
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William Newman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174877

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174877.001.0001

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Optics and Matter: Newton, Boyle, and Scholastic Mixture Theory

Optics and Matter: Newton, Boyle, and Scholastic Mixture Theory

(p.114) Six Optics and Matter: Newton, Boyle, and Scholastic Mixture Theory
Newton the Alchemist

William R. Newman

Princeton University Press

This chapter provides a sustained treatment of the self-styled English “naturalist” Robert Boyle, and his contribution to Newton's optical research. It is little appreciated that Boyle's analytical approach to chymistry had a profound impact on Newton's optics in the second half of the 1660s, the period that Newton considered “the prime of my age for invention.” It is argued that Newton transferred Boyle's analysis and resynthesis or “redintegration” of materials such as niter to the realm of light. The chapter also establishes the influence of Boyle's chymistry on Newton's experimental methodology, and presents Boyle's and Newton's work against the backdrop of scholastic matter theory and optics in order to underscore the epoch-making character of the new color theory, which resulted in the overthrow of two millennia of research on the subject.

Keywords:   Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, optical research, alchemy, optics, chymistry, color theory

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