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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Huygens, Christiaan"

Huygens, Christiaan [Astro*Index]

(hoy'genz or hy'genz)

(1629-1695) Dutch physicist, astronomer, and mystic.

He published the first formal book on probability, in 1657. He devised an improved method of grinding lenses, which were used in a 23- foot telescope, and led to his discovery of the Orion Nebula. He also discovered a satellite of Saturn, naming it Titan. Huygens improved upon the theory of the pendulum advanced by Galileo, showing that it did not swing in exactly equal periods unless it swung through a particular arc which was not quite circular. Armed with this knowledge, he made attachments at the fulcrum which caused the pendulum to swing in the proper arc, and modified a clockwork using falling weights to impart sufficient energy to the pendulum to keep it in motion, against the effects of friction and air resistance. This was the first of the clocks known today as grandfather clocks, and marks the beginning of accurate timekeeping, which was of critical importance in the development of physics (especially astronomy). He attempted to correct Newton on the wave theory of light, but Newton's view of the particle theory of light persisted until the work of Young, over 100 years later.

See also:
♦ Newton, Sir Isaac


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine