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Interference spectra produced by diffraction

John Tyndall (1820-1893)1860

The Royal Society

The Royal Society
London, United Kingdom

Illustration of Interference spectra from 'The Glaciers of the Alps: Being a Narrative of Excursions and Ascents, an Account of the Origin and Phenomena of Glaciers and an Exposition of the Physical' by physicist John Tyndall, 1860. In the second Ascent to Mont Blanc, 1858, Tyndall noted 'For a long time we were in the cool shadow of the mountain, catching, at intervals, through the twigs in front of us, glimpses of the sun surrounded by coloured spectra. On one occasion a brow rose in front of me; behind it was a lustrous space of heaven, adjacent to the sun, which, however, was hidden behind the brow; against this space the twigs and weeds upon the summit of the brow shone as if they were self- luminous, while some bits of thistle -down floating in the air appeared, where they crossed this portion of the heavens, like fragments of the sun himself. Once the orb appeared behind a rounded mass of snow which lay near the summit of the Aiguille du Midi. Looked at with
the naked eyes, it seemed to possess a billowy motion, the light darting from it in dazzling curves, _ a subjective effect produced by the abnormal action of the intense light upon the eye. As the sun's disk came more into view, its rays however still grazing the summit of the mountain, interference-spectra darted from it on all sides, and surrounded it with a glory of richly-coloured bars.'

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