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Thomas Young: The Man Who Knew Everything

Andrew Robinson marvels at the brain power and breadth of knowledge of the 18th-century polymath Thomas Young. He examines his relationship with his contemporaries, particularly with the French Egyptologist Champollion, and how he has been viewed subsequently by historians.

 

Nature to him was an open book, whose letters he could read without effort. ... Reflection, refraction, the formation of images by lenses, the mode of operation of the eye, the spectral decomposition and recomposition of the different kinds of light, the invention of the reflecting telescope, the first foundations of colour theory, the elementary theory of the rainbow pass by us in procession, and finally come his observations of the colours of thin films as the origin of the next great theoretical advance, which had to await, over a hundred years, the coming of Thomas Young.

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