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XIII. Investigation of the powers of the prismatic colours to heat and illuminate objects; with remarks, that prove the different refrangibility of radiant heat. To which is added, an inquiry into the method of viewing the sun advantageously, with telescopes of large apertures and high magnifying powers

It is sometimes of great use in natural philosophy, to doubt of things that are commonly taken for granted; especially as the means of resolving any doubt, when once it is entertained, are often within our reach. We may therefore say, that any experiment which leads us to investigate the truth of what was before admitted upon trust, may become of great utility to natural knowledge. Thus, for instance, when we see the effect of the condensation of the sun's rays in the focus of a burning lens, it seems to be natural to suppose, that every one of the united rays contributes its proportional share to the intensity of the heat which is produced; and we should probably think it highly absurd, if it were asserted that many of them had but little concern in the combustion, or vitrification, which follows, when an object is put into that focus. It will therefore not be amiss to mention what gave rise to a surmise, that the power of heating and illuminating objects, might not be equally distributed among the variously coloured rays. In a variety of experiments I have occasionally made, relating to the method of viewing the sun, with large telescopes, to the best advantage, I used various combinations of differently-coloured darkening glasses. What appeared remarkable was, that when I used some of them, I felt a sensation of heat, though I had but little light; while others gave me much light, with scarce any sensation of heat. Now, as in these different combinations the sun's image was also differently coloured, it occurred to me, that the prismatic rays might have the power of heating bodies very unequally distributed among them; and, as I judged it right in this respect to entertain a doubt, it appeared equally proper to admit the same with regard to light. If certain colours should be more apt to occasion heat, others might, on the contrary, be more fit for vision, by possessing a superior illuminating power. At all events, it would be proper to recur to experiments for a decision.


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