Newton's telescope in print: The role of images in the reception of Newton's instrument

Perspectives on Science 16 (4):pp. 328-359 (2008)
Abstract
While Newton tried to make his telescope into a proof of the supremacy of his theory of colours over older theories, his instrument was welcomed as a way to shorten telescopes, not as a way to solve the problem of chromatic aberration. This paper argues that the image published together with the report on Newton’s telescope in Philosophical Transactions (1672) encouraged this reception. The differences between this visualization and other images of Newton’s telescope, especially that published in Opticks (1704), are discussed. This paper shows that the image in Opticks adopted characteristics of a Cartesian program of visualization of machines and instruments which complemented a rhetoric which attributed primacy to theory over practice. The differences between the images in Philosophical Transactions and Opticks are also considered within the broader institutional context of Newton’s attitude towards the Royal Society.
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