Januar. 25. 167475.


A Letter of Franc. Linus, animadverting on Mr. Newtons Theory of Light and Colors; with an Answer thereunto. Extracts of two Letters written by Mr. Flamstead, of an Astronomical nature. Some Observations and Experiments made by Mr Lister, touching the Efflorescence of certain Mineral Globes; an odd figured Iris; a Glossopetra tricuspis non-ferrata; certain Lapides Judaici, for kind found in England; the Electrical power of Stones in relation to a Vegetable Rosin; the Flower and Seed of Mushrooms; & the speedy vitrifying the whole body of Antimony by Cawk. An Accompt of some Books; Tracts containing 1. Suspicions about some Hidden Qualities in the Air, with an Appendix touching Celestial Magnets and some other particulars: 2. Animadversions upon Mr. Hobb's PROBLEMATA de VACUO: 3. A Discourse of the Cause of Attraction by SUCTION: By the Honourable R. Boyle, Esq. Fell. of the R. Society. II. R. P. Claudii Franc. Milliet de Chales CURSUS seu MUNDUS MATHEMATICUS, &c. III. The SPHERE of M. Manilius made an English Poem, with Annotations, and an Astronomical Appendix: By Edward Sherburn, Esq. IV. AVONA, or a Transient View of the benefit of making Rivers of this Kingdom Navigable; by R. S. V. An Essay to facilitate the EDUCATION of YOUTH, &c. by M. Lewis of Tottenham.

A Letter of the Learn'd Franc. Linus, to a Friend of his in London, animadverting upon Mr. Isaac Newton's Theory of Light and Colors, formerly printed in these Tracts.

Honoured Sir,

UNderstanding, that things of the nature I now write, are always welcom unto you, from what hand soever they come, I thought good, though unknown to you, to give you notice, That perusing lately the Philosophical Transactions, to see what I could find therein, in order to a little Treatise of Opticks I have in hand; I lighted in page 3075. upon a Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge, wherein he speaks of an <218> Experiment he tryed, by letting the Sun-beams through a little hole into a dark chamber; which passing through a glass Prism to the opposite wall, exhibited there a Spectrum of divers colours, but in a form much more long then broad: whereas according to the received Laws of Refraction, it should rather have appeared in a circular form. Whereupon conceiving a defect in those usual Laws of Refraction, he frames his new Theory of Light, giving to several rays, several refrangibilities, without respect to their Angles of Incidence, &c.

Truly, Sir, I doubt not of what this learned Author here affirms; and have my self sometines in like circumstances observed the like difference between the length and breadth of this coloured Spectrum; but never found it so when the sky was clear and free from clouds, near the Sun: but then only appeared this difference of length and breadth, when the Sun either shined through a white cloud, or enlightned some such clouds near unto it. And then indeed it was no marvel, the said Spectrum should be longer then broad; since the cloud or clouds, so enlightned, were in order to those colours like to a great Sun, making a far greater Angle of Intersection in the said hole, then the true rays of the Sun do make; and therefore are able to enlighten the whole length of the Prism, and not only some small part thereof, as we see enlightned by the true Sun-beams coming through the same little hole. And this we behold also in the true Sun-beams, when they enlighten the whole Prism: for, although in a clear Heaven, the rays of the Sun, passing through the said hole, never make a Spectrum longer then broad, because they then occupy but a small part of the Prism; yet if the hole be so much bigger as to enlighten the whole Prism, you shall presently see the length of the Spectrum much exceed its breadth; which excess will be always so much the greater, as the length of the Prism exceeds its breadth. From whence I conclude, that the Spectrum, this learned Author saw much longer then broad, was not effected by the true Sun-beams, but by rays proceeding from some bright cloud, as is said; and by consequence, that the Theory of Light grounded upon that Experiment cannot subsist.

What I have here said, needs no other confirmation than meer experience, which any one may quickly try; neither have I only tryed the same upon this occasion, but near 30 years ago shewed the same, together with divers other Experiments of Light, to that worthy Promoter of Experimental Philosophy, Sr. Kenelm Digby, who coming into these parts to take the Spaw-Waters, resorted oftentimes <219> to my darkned Chamber, to see those various Phænomena of Light made by divers Refractions and Reflexions, and took Notes upon them; which industry if they also had used, who endeavour to explicate the aforesaid difference between the length and breadth of this coloured Spectrum, by the received Laws of Refraction, would never have taken so impossible a task in hand.

The rest is, Honoured Sir, that it is far from my intent, that the mistake here mentioned do any way derogate from that learned person: Which truly might have happened to my self, if at my first tryal thereof, the Sun had been in a white cloud, as it seems, it happened to him. Wherefore ceasing further to trouble you, I rest,

Yours to command,                       Francis Linus.

6 Octob. 1674.

© 2022 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC