The law of refraction and Kepler’s heuristics

Archive for History of Exact Sciences 74 (1):45-75 (2020)
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Johannes Kepler dedicated much of his work to discover a law for the refraction of light. Unfortunately, he formulated an incorrect law. Nevertheless, it was useful for anticipating the behavior of light in some specific conditions. Some believe that Kepler did not have the elements to formulate the law that was later accepted by the scientific community, that is, the Snell–Descartes law. However, in this paper, we propose a model that agrees with Kepler’s heuristics and that is also successful in anticipating the behavior of light when it passes through a surface that separates two media with different optical densities. This model adopts strategies that were recommended by Kepler in two types of analogies. The obstacles that led to the failure of the two types of analogies are presented in the article, and we argue that the model proposed here could overcome these specific obstacles. Finally, we show how the proposed model could be articulated with Kepler’s metaphysics of light.



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Juliana Gutiérrez
Universidad de Los Andes

References found in this work

The Euclidean Diagram.Kenneth Manders - 2008 - In Paolo Mancosu (ed.), The Philosophy of Mathematical Practice. Oxford University Press. pp. 80--133.
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Methodological Aspects of Kepler's Theory of Refraction.Gerd Buchdahl - 1972 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 3 (3):265.
Thomas Harriott.Johs Lohne - 1959 - Centaurus 6 (2):113-121.

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