Cover image for Optics : Paralipomena to Witelo & optical part of astronomy
Optics : Paralipomena to Witelo & optical part of astronomy
Kepler, Johannes, 1571-1630.
Uniform Title:
Ad Vitellionem paralipomena quibus astronomiae pars optica traditur. English
Publication Information:
Santa Fe, N.M. : Green Lion Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 459 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
General Note:
Two folded leaves inserted in pocket at end.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library QC380 .K4613 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Optics was a product of Kepler's most creative period. It began as an attempt to give astronomical optics a solid foundation, but soon transcended this narrow goal to become a complete reconstruction of the theory of light, the physiology of vision, and the mathematics of refraction. The result is a work of extraordinary breadth whose significance transcends most categories into which it might be placed. It gives us precious insight into Kepler's thought during this crucial period, an insight all the more valuable in that most of his working papers from that time have been lost. Second, it is the culmination of a long and rich tradition in the science of optics, in distinct contrast with the new optical thought represented by Descartes. And third, it presents discoveries in the physiology of vision, photometry, and the geometry of conic sections which have become part of our intellectual heritage. Especially notable are Kepler's discovery of the inverted retinal image, his theoretical grounding of the inverse-square photometric law, and his insights into the relations between the various conic sections.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This first complete translation of Kepler's Latin Optics (1604) makes a remarkably influential and fascinating work more accessible to contemporary scholars. According to Donahue, Kepler, who while observing the solar eclipse of 1600 solved the problem of how light passes through pinholes, contemplated a short work to present his explanation. In fact, a much longer work resulted. The 11 chapters show the tremendous range of topics he ultimately addressed. In the first he speculates, both metaphysically and theologically, about the nature of light; in the last he describes the instrument used to observe the eclipse and the observational problems in determining the relative diameters of the sun and moon. In between, he constructively supplements Witelo's Perspectiva, accounts for refraction, recasts and uses Apollonius's Conics, examines the anatomy of the eye and how we see, discusses eclipses, and relates all to observational astronomy. Although the Optics, in Donahue's opinion written in haste and unfinished, has had enormous influence for centuries, the translator sees important topics for further study. This well-produced volume with Kepler's marginal notes, his index, a bibliography of citations, and the translator's extensive footnoting will facilitate such efforts. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. E. R. Webster emerita, Wellesley College

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