2.1 Definition of Optical Engineering
By definition, optics is the scientific study of light and vision, chiefly of the generation, propagation, manipulation, and detection of electromagnetic radiation having wavelengths greater than x rays and shorter than microwaves. The term optical applies to anything of or pertaining to optics. By further definition then, optical engineering would involve the application of scientific optical principles to practical ends, such as the design, construction, and operation of useful optical instruments, equipment, and systems. This chapter will deal with some of the people, places, and events that, over the years, have contributed significantly to the history of optical engineering.
2.2 Ancient History
The earliest indications of some knowledge and application of optical principles appeared nearly 4000 years ago when two unrelated massive stone structures, Stonehenge and the Pyramid of Cheops, were constructed. In both cases the orientation of these structures is found to be tied closely to the relationship between the earth and the sun. Familiarity with the cyclical relationship of the seasons, along with the knowledge that light travels in straight lines, would have been required for the resulting arrangements to occur. The precise orientation of these structures relative to the compass and the calendar may be interpreted as an early demonstration of basic optical engineering principles.
Early historical records of Plato and Aristotle (ca. 350 BC) reveal one of the first debates over the exact nature of light. While Plato taught that vision was accomplished by the expulsion of ocular beams from the eyes, his student Aristotle rejected that theory, arguing (more correctly) that vision arises when particles emitted from the object enter the pupil of the eye.
While Euclid (ca. 300 BC) is best known for his study and writings dealing with geometry, he contributed a great deal to the science of optics through his book titled Optics.
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