My talk today will be about Newton’s avowed methodology, and specifically the place of experiment in his conception of science, and how his ideas changed significantly over the course of his career. I also want to look at his actual scientific practice and see how this influenced his views on the nature of the experimental sciences.
In developing a new theory of vision in Ad Vitellionem paralipomena Kepler introduced a new optical concept, pictura, which is an image projected on to a screen by a camera obscura. He distinguished this pictura from an imago, the traditional image of medieval optics that existed only in the imagination. By the 1670s a new theory of optical imagery had been developed, and Kepler's pictura and imago became real and virtual images, two aspects of a unified concept of image. The (...) new concept of image developed out of a synthesis of Kepler's determination of the geometrical location of a pictura as the limit, or focus, of refracted pencils of rays and the triangulation used by a single eye to determine the perceived location of an imago. The distinction between real and imaginary images was largely developed by Gilles Personne de Roberval and the Jesuits Francesco Eschinardi and Claude François Milliet Dechales. (shrink)
[…] Open the pages of almost any national journal or magazine, and where ten years ago one found only one or another kind of free verse lyric, one now finds well rhymed quatrains, sestinas, villanelles, sonnets, and blank verse dramatic monologues or meditations.1 In a recent issue of the New Criterion, Robert Richman describes this rekindled interest in formal verse among younger poets as a return to the high seriousness, eloquence, and technical fluency that characterized the best achievements of American (...) poetry forty years ago.2 As Mr. Richman numbers me among the younger poets working in form, I ought to be as cheered by these developments as he is. Yet I am anything but cheered. And not because I don’t want to belong to club that would have me as a member, though this may be a part of it; but because I suspect that what Mr. Richman hails as a development may in fact be nothing but a mechanical reaction, and that the new formalists, in rejecting the sins of their experimental fathers may end up merely repeating the sings of their New Critical grandfathers, resuscitating the stodgy, overrefined conventions of the “fifties poem,” conventions which were of course sufficiently narrow and restrictive to provoke rebellion in the first place. Any reform, carried to uncritical extremes by lesser talents who ignore rather than try to assimilate the achievements of their predecessors, will itself require reformation. If James Wright, say, or Robert Bly, produced more than their fair share of imitators, if they even imitate themselves much of the time, they nonetheless have written poems all of us can and ought to learn from. Maybe we have had too much of the “raw” in recent years. But the answer to the raw is not the overcooked. Besides, it’s dangerous to think we have to choose exclusively between free verse and form. The wider the range of styles and forms that we avail ourselves of, the more enriched, more flexible and inclusive our expressive resources will be. It’s as important for those who work in form to be familiar with the experiments and innovatins of the last hundred years as it is for those who work in looser measures to be familiar with traditional verse forms that go back beyond the twentieth century. Alan Shapiro’s most recent book of poems, Happy Hour, was published this year. (shrink)
The 300th anniversary of the publication of Isaac Newton’s Opticks in 1704 provides an occasion to review the history of its composition and publication. As a preliminary to presenting that history, Newton’s attitude to publication and response to criticism are examined. Newton’s clashes with Hooke and his presumed role as the cause of the delay in the publication of the Opticks until after his death are also scrutinized. Rather than simply presenting Newton and Hooke as quarrelsome, which they indeed were, (...) they are presented as rivals to be England’s leading optical authority. Although Newton announced his intention to publish a book very much like the Opticks in the winter of 1675–76, he did not begin to write it until 1687. It was composed in various stages, including new experimental investigations, by 1692, except for the part on diffraction. A planned, but unfulfilled, revision of the part on diffraction was responsible for delaying its publication for a number of years. (shrink)