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International Year of Light - 2015: Special Collections & Archives

Guide was created to accompany a KSL Art Display from October-December of 2015.

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Examples from Case

Below are examples interesting items from our Special Collections & Archives and Digital Case about or related to light. Items are in shared in the display cases or mounted in the KSL Art Gallery.

Books from Special Collections

The following items are available for viewing in the KSL Special Collections. Related item from other parts of KSL are also highlighted.


In the display case: Opticks: Or a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light, Sir Issac Newton, W. Bowyer for W. Innys, 1717,

KSL has several versions and formats of this book, and many related texts.


Traité de la Lumiere, Christiaan Huygens, Gressner & Schramm, 1885

Huygens’s famous treatise on light was originally published in 1690. Huygens is credited with the observation that light travels in waves.

KSL has several versions and formats of this book, and many related texts.


Micrometrical Measures of Gaseous Spectra Under High Dispersion, C. Piazzi Smyth, Neil and Company, 1886

Piazzi Smyth was appointed as the Astronomer Royal of Scotland in 1846, and was an astronomy professor at the University of Edinburgh. Heeding Newton’s advice in Opticks, Piazzi Smyth pioneered the modern practice of placing telescopes at high altitudes to enjoy improved observation.


Light: A Series of Simple, Entertaining, and Inexpensive Experiments in the Phenomena of Light, for the Use of Students of Every Age, Alfred Marshall Mayer, D. Appleton and Company, 1884

This text reveals the demand for understanding scientific principals by the broader population outside of formal schools and societies.


Edison Pioneers: Constitution and By-Laws, Edison Pioneers, 1923

One of Thomas Edison’s most famous innovations was the motion picture camera called a Kinetograph. Edison operated a film studio that was responsible for many of the prominent early silent films including The Great Train Robbery, from 1903. Edison, also a businessman, invented the Kinetoscope a private viewer installed in penny arcades all over the world.


Experimental Determination of the Velocity of Light, Albert Abraham Michelson, Lund Press, 1964

This is a reproduction of Michelson's handwritten report on his experiments that measured the velocity of light. By 1883, Michelson was a professor of physics at The Case School of Applied Sciences where in 1887 the famous Michelson-Morley Experiment was conducted. This experiment compared the speed of light in perpendicular directions, in an attempt to detect the relative motion of matter through the stationary luminiferous aether or ether.


Proceedings of the Michelson Meeting, The Optical Society of America, 1928

In 1907, Michelson and Morley were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Their experiments, conducted at what is now Case Western Reserve University, determined that light is not fixed but relative, provided the groundwork for physicists like Albert Einstein. Clearly, Michelson’s work influenced the next generation of scientific thought as is evidenced in this publication.