Edinburgh Review,  1 (1802–03), 158–63.

Art. XXIII. [Review of The Elements of Optics, by James Wood]

[Henry P Brougham] *



Publications reviewed:

Wood 1801


Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Education, Publishing, Textbooks, Universities, Light, Deduction, Induction, Experiment, Instruments, Hypothesis, Gravity, Speculation

Publications cited:

Newton 1729 , Newton 1704

    Relates that, about five years before, James Wood and Samuel Vince 'undertook to draw up a series of elementary works, which should comprise the substance of the lectures usually read at Cambridge, upon Mathematics and Natural Philosophy', of which series this is the sixth and last volume (158). Addressing 'philosophical readers', the reviewer notes that the work is concerned with the deductive part of optics to the exclusion of the experimental, probably because the treatise has been composed primarily to 'assist the student of astronomy' (158–59). Does not entirely approve of this plan, which is a slight to Isaac Newton. However, generally approves of the execution of the work, while noticing that some sections contain 'considerable inaccuracies; chiefly where a reference was necessary to the merely experimental branch of the subject' (159). Briefly describes the contents of the work. Concludes with remarks on 'the inaccuracy with which our author has [...] alluded to some passages of Sir Isaac Newton's Optics [sic], in which the theory of Vibrations is mentioned'. Considers this section of Newton's work has commonly been perverted 'by ignorant theorists' who have used his authority to build 'the most extravagant hypotheses'. (162) Argues that Wood has failed to appreciate Newton's caution in stating the hypothesis of an etherial medium and in distinguishing it from a strict induction.

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