Catalogue Number: 17
Lectiones opticae & geometricae in quibus phaenomenon opticorum: genuinae rationes investigantur, ac exponuntur: et generalia curvarum linearum symptomata declarantur
Sub-Category: Significant book (Aitken collection)
Author: BARROW, Isaaco
Year Of Publication/Manufacture: 1674
Time Period: 18th C and earlier
Place Of Publication/Manufacture: London
Publisher/Manufacturer: Robert Scott
Description Of Item: The book is in Latin. It is 200 x 160 mm bound in leather and has a title page, 12 introductory pages and151 pages of text divided into 13 "lectures". There are 13 fold-out figures illustrating geometric constructs.
Historical Significance: Isaaco Barrow (1630-1677) was a graduate of Cambridge (BA 1649, MA 1652) and a mathematician. He taught himself geometry and wrote a simplified edition of Euclid's Elements in 1655. He became interested in astronomy through studies of divinity required of him as a Fellow of Trinity. He became professor of Greek at Cambridge in 1659, although he had no interest in Greek, but was concurrently Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London from 1659. He became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1663 and was tutor to Newton. Newton actually prepared his lectures for publication and succeeded him as Lucasian Professor in 1669. He was appointed Master of Trinity in 1773. From a review of the English translation by RD Watkins Clin Exp Optom 1978 61 4-5 'Barrow followed Kepler (Dioptrice in 1611) and Descartes (La Dioptrique in 1637), was a contemporary of Huyghens and Hooke and a teacher of Newton. He saw optics advance from the discovery of the law of refraction to a comprehensive understanding of geometric optics and the nature of light. But what did Barrow actually contribute? Was he one of the giants on whose shoulders Newton stood? History has not been kind about Isaac Barrow's efforts in optics, partly because he was overshadowed by Newton. The editors of this translation plead for 'a radical reappraisal of Barrow's true place in the history of optics', and perhaps this book will allow that reappraisal. Barrow's prologue says that his lectures were exacted by necessity of duty, hastily written and tailored for a somewhat ordinary bunch of students and his writing suggests that this is not altogether an attempt at modesty.'
How Acquired: Donated by Michael Aitken, honorary archivist
Date Acquired: 1989
Condition: Good : Restored June 2017
Location: Nathan Library. Aitken collection