The Nineteenth Century had hardly begun when Thomas Young (1773 to 1829) fanned the fire smoldering between supporters of the wave and the corpuscular theories of light. Young’s demonstrations that light can be superimposed (i.e., cause interference) gave strong evidence for the validity of the wave theory. However, within a decade Etienne Malus (1775 to 1811) discovered that light can be polarized by reflection. It was soon shown that light so polarized can also suffer interference. If light consists of longitudinal waves as Young had thought—and Christiaan Huygens (1629 to 1695) had proposed—how would it be possible for such waves to be both polarized and to interfere? Augustine Jean Fresnel recognized that light must be a transverse wave. His colleagues were slow to understand this, but Fresnel persisted with complete success.
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