Thomas Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts

Thomas Young, Nicholas Wade (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Thomas Young’s Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts highlights the British physicist and physician greatest contributions to science. Mostly remembered for his optical work, Thomas Young (1773-1829), initiated important paths of investigation which other scientists were later able to take up and complete. This classic work is based on a series of lectures delivered at the Royal Institution and covers virtually the whole of theoretical science and technology at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

First published in 1807 in two volumes and reprinted here in four volumes, Lectures is divided between four main subjects: mechanics and hydrodynamics (volume 1), physics (volume 2), and mathematics (volume 3), concluding with a historical overview of each. The fourth volume contains ten papers originally published in the Philosophical Transactions between 1793 and 1804, and are principally concerned with physiological optics. Young’s suggestion that the retina responds to three ‘principal colours’ only, which combine to form all the other colours (the trichromatic colour theory), led the way for further investigation into a proper theory of vision by the great German physicist and physiologist, Hermann von Helmholtz, and is now referred to as the Young-Helmholtz theory of colour vision. Young also established the wave theory of light, discovered the principle of light interference, and gave the first description of astigmatism.

Young’s advances in science are frequently cited in the contemporary visual science literature, but the scarcity of the Lectures means very few have the opportunity of reading Young’s original work. Reprinted here in its original size and lavishly illustrated with engravings, including two hand-coloured, the Thoemmes Press edition of this work renders Young’s insights accessible to modern scientists and historians of science.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBristol
PublisherThoemmes Continuum
Number of pages1640
EditionFacsimile Ed
ISBN (Print)1855069458 , 9781855069459
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2002


Dive into the research topics of 'Thomas Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this