Corpuscular theory of light  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In optics, corpuscular theory of light, set forward by Sir Isaac Newton, states that light is made up of small discrete particles called "corpuscles" (little particles) which travel in a straight line with a finite velocity and possess kinetic energy.

Newton's theory remained in force for more than 100 years and took precedence over Huygens' wave front theory, partly because of Newton’s great prestige. However when the corpuscular theory failed to adequately explain the diffraction, interference and polarization of light it was abandoned in favour of Huygen's wave theory.

Newton's corpuscular theory was an elaboration of his view of reality as interactions of material points through forces. Note Albert Einstein's description of Newton's conception of physical reality:

[Newton's] physical reality is characterised by concepts of space, time, the material point and force (interaction between material points). Physical events are to be thought of as movements according to law of material points in space. The material point is the only representative of reality in so far as it is subject to change. The concept of the material point is obviously due to observable bodies; one conceived of the material point on the analogy of movable bodies by omitting characteristics of extension, form, spatial locality, and all their 'inner' qualities, retaining only inertia, translation, and the additional concept of force.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Corpuscular theory of light" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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