Snell’s law

984,1602,1621,1637 Snell’s law

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Ibn Sahl, Thomas Harriot, Willebrord Snellius, René Descartes optics

Snell’s law

Snell’s window

Law of refraction

By Descartes’ time, rediscovering Snell’s law had became somewhat routine, with each discoverer finding his own means of deriving the same result, but the fundamental physics was still uncertain. Descartes assumed that the speed of light is infinite and his derivation of the law used the conservation of momentum. In 1662, Pierre de Fermat assumed that the speed of light is finite, rejected Descartes’ work, and derived the law using the principle of least time.

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