NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1675 __ Newton's rings
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Comment : Although very much a part of his scientific imagination, Sir Isaac Newton had never applied the idea of colors corresponding to musical tones, for example by constructing an instrument that would produce colors and tones simultaneously. Nevertheless, he invented (and we have to call it that) the seven colors of the spectrum, based on the analogy with the seven notes of the diatonic scale. It appears that it was his assistant, endowed with better eyesight, who divided up the spectrum of sunlight refracted by a prism, but it was certainly Newton who had instructed him to make seven divisions. As a result of this decision, most people today believe unthinkingly that the rainbow has seven colors, called red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. In searching for the rationale behind the spectrum, Newton discovered another musical dimension. It was while experimenting with the colored rings that appear when two pieces of glass are pressed together ("Newton's rings"). He calculated the spaces between the two plates that gave rise to different colors - spaces of the order of a ten-thousandth of an inch - and found that they were proportioned as the cube roots of the squares of the string lengths that would have given the corresponding intervals. It was through such calculations that he later discovered the wavelengths of light. (Joscelyn Godwin, "Music and the Occult")
Source : Godwin, Joscelyn (1995), “Music and the Occult: French Musical Philosophies, 1750-1950”, Rochester: University of Rochester Press / London: Boydell & Brewer.
Urls : http://physics.kenyon.edu/EarlyApparatus/Optics/Newtons_Rings/Newtons_Rings.html (last visited ) http://portablepalace.com/lucida/ (last visited ) http://subaru2.univ-lemans.fr/enseignements/physique/02/optiphy/newton.html (last visited ) http://www.sciences.univ-nantes.fr/physique/perso/charrier/tp/anneaux/newt.html (last visited )

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