Posted on 16 October 2019
In 1704, scientist Isaac Newton published his book Optiks, in which he detailed an experiment with light and a prism.
Newton (1643 – 1727) proved that white light is composed of of rainbow colours by allowing sun light to pass through a prism. Due to the shape of the prism, light with different wavelengths refract by different amounts so they separate.
The light emerging from the prism was projected onto a screen and Newton was able to see the range of colours in the visible spectrum.
He extended the experiment by making holes in the screen to allow the light from each major colour to pass through the screen. This coloured light was allowed to pass through another prism. Each coloured light ray emerging from the prism had the same colour when projected on the screen.
Thus, Newton proved that white light is composed of rainbow colours and that these colours can’t be broken down into further colours.
The first panel of the Quaker Tapestry uses Newton’s prism light experiment as a metaphor for the Society of Friends. The panel includes the quote:
“For the Society of Friends might be thought of as a prism through which the Divine Light passes, to become visible in a spectrum of many colours; many more, in their richest, than words alone can express.”
First Panel of the Quaker Tapestry
Isaac Newton was born near Grantham, Lincolnshire, and bi-annually the town hosts Gravity Fields.
Gavity fields is a festival of science, arts, heritage, music, drama and outdoor lighting in and around Grantham to celebrate Sir Isaac Newton’s legacy. I took this photo of Newton’s statue surrounded by light during Gravity Fields 2018.