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The Shadow of EnlightenmentOptical and Political Transparency in France 1789-1848$
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Theresa Levitt

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199544707

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544707.001.0001

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Le Rouge et le Vert: The Colors of Opposition in Restoration France

Le Rouge et le Vert: The Colors of Opposition in Restoration France

(p.33) 2 Le Rouge et le Vert: The Colors of Opposition in Restoration France
The Shadow of Enlightenment

Theresa Levitt

Oxford University Press

This chapter covers the argument between Arago and Biot in the 1810s that solidified their scientific reputations. They are usually portrayed as fighting over rival theories of the nature of light: Biot defended the established claim that light was a particle while Arago, working with Augustin Fresnel, proposed that it was in fact a wave. If one reads their work, however, both admit that this is not the important issue. The fight was instead over whether the polarimeter's visual products were transparently available or not, and whether it could be used as a tool of standardization. Arago felt the colors of the polarimeter were simple and immediately perceptible: the color blue was produced by blue light. Biot argued that the colors were complex: blue could very well be some complicated mixture of other colors, and there was no way for the eye to distinguish it from a pure blue.

Keywords:   Arago, Biot, Fresnel, color, polarimeter, standardization, wave, particle

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