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    Augustin-Jean Fresnel. Autograph Letter Signed.
    "A. Fresnel." Three pages, in French, with an integral address sheet, 4.75" x 7.25", n.p.; Friday, [circa 1815-1821]. In this letter to François Arago at the Paris Observatory, Fresnel writes during a time they were working together on the theory of light. In the letter, which includes a small sketch, Fresnel expresses his concerns regarding a discrepancy between Arago's calculations and his own. Fresnel's formula predicts a certain amount of light reflected off four mirrors but Arago must have come to a different conclusion and Fresnel seems to think he (Arago) mistakenly calculated his results using three instead of four mirrors. He requests that Arago double check his calculations in order to determine if his (Arago's) experimental observations were imprecise or if his (Fresnel's) formula and predictions are at odds with experimental data.

    Augustin-Jean Fresnel (1788-1827) was a French civil engineer and physicist whose research in optics led to the almost unanimous acceptance of the wave theory of light from the late 1830s until the end of the 19th century. He is best known for inventing the catadioptric (reflective/refractive) Fresnel lens and for pioneering the use of "stepped" lenses to extend the visibility of lighthouses, saving countless lives at sea. He died of tuberculosis at the young age of 39.

    Dominique François Jean Arago (1786-1853), known as François Arago, was a French mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and politician. Arago was an ardent supporter of Fresnel's optical theories, helping to confirm Fresnel's wave theory of light. The two worked together from 1815 to 1821 on experiments on the polarization of light, which led to the inference that the vibrations of the luminiferous ether were transverse to the direction of motion, and that polarization consisted of a resolution of rectilinear propagation into components at right angles to each other.

    Condition: Letter has usual folds; has separations along the crease between pages 2 and 3, which have been repaired with tissue; weakening along horizontal folds on page 3; paper loss on bottom of page 3 where seal was broken when opening letter. Fair to good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2019
    4th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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