Did Kepler S Suppldmdllt to Department ofEarthand Planetary Sciences Witelo Inspire Descartes' Theory of the Rainbow? In 1604, Johannes Kepler published the Supplement light striking spherical drops and could be simulated to Witelo (Paralipomena ad Vitellionem). In this sem- by aiming a beam of light at a spherical globe filled inal work, which helped establish the basis of geo- with water was well known. By this time, the primary metric optics and which quickly won widespread rainbow had also been attributed to light refracting acceptance, Kepler demonstrated some fundamental into the drop, reflecting off its concave interior sur- discoveries regarding the optics of the human eye face, and refracting once again on leaving the drop. (see Ronchi 1957, 1970). The purpose of this histor- The idea that the secondary bow was produced by ical note is to point out strong parallels between two internal reflections had also been proposed. Kepler's treatment of the optics of the eye and Des- By themselves, these ideas are inadequate to ex- cartes' explanation of the rainbow, and to suggest plain why the rainbow appears about 42° from the that Kepler's work provided Descartes with some antisolar point, since rays undergoing two refractions crucial
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Jul 1, 1989
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