Essay about Light: Newton's Particle Theory vs Huygens' Wave Theory

Essay about Light: Newton's Particle Theory vs Huygens' Wave Theory

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In the early eighteenth century, a vital question aroused in the scientific community that triggered arguments among scientists and the question was ‘what is the light made up of?’. Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientist and mathematician of all time, proposed that the light is made up of tiny particles called corpuscles. But around the same time, Newton’s corpuscular theory of light was challenged by Christian Huygens. According to Huygens, light was made up of waves and not particles (Spring and Davidson). Even though both the theories have some differences, they both are true; the light is made up of both, particles and waves.
Newton and Huygens’ theories sparked a big debate on the structure of light. They both deeply studied the light and came up with their theories. Newton’s corpuscular theory considers the prism experiment which concluded that light travels as a flow of particles proceeding in a straight line until they are refracted or diverted from a solid surface (Spring and Davidson). Contrastingly, Huygens’ wave theory stands on the fact that light does not travel in a straight line and rather, it travels in a wave-like pattern. Huygens showed that the edges of shadows are not perfectly sharp and that concludes that light must be a wave and it diffracts when it passes through an opening (Hernandez). These were the first arguments provided by Newton and Huygens in order to validate their theories. But this was not enough for the scientific community to consider one over the other as correct. Both the theories required more evidence.
Another major difference was found in their explanation of light being reflected from a smooth surface, such as mirror. According to Newton’s particle theory, when the light, as a...


... middle of paper ...


...s claimed the discovery of the answer. Due to the contribution of great scientists like Max Planck, Albert Einstein and many others, the scientific community today maintains the Wave-Particle duality theory, which states that every particle has wave type nature (Spring and Davidson). Even though both the theories have some differences, they both are true; the light is made up of both, particles and waves. Although these theories sparked debate that lasted centuries, Quantum Mechanics was born as a result of the research conducted upon proving the credibility of the theories (Spring and Davidson).



Works Cited
Hernandez, Maryann. "Wave-Particle Duality." Chemwiki. University of California, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2013.
Spring, Kenneth R., and Michael W. Davidson. "Light: Particle or a Wave?" Molecular Expressions. Florida State University, 1 Aug. 2003. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.

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