“Full of great and fascinating figures. . .” — Booklist
Galileo — His telescope showed him countless stars, yet Galileo wondered what light was. Toward the end of his life, he told a friend he would live in a cell with nothing but bread and water if, upon emerging, he could know the truth about light.
Caravaggio — “Painting is light,” this Italian master said. And in a reckless life that saw him brawl and battle and even kill a man, he captured a brilliant light on canvas.
Richard Feynman — “Light is screwy,” the legendary physicist told students. Yet Feynman probed deeper into light than anyone before him, diagramming its movements, pinpointing its precision.
Cecilia Payne — When she proposed that stars were made mostly of hydrogen and helium, men scoffed. But her theory proved correct and led to a deeper understanding of how stars make light.
The Apostle Paul — Blinded by holy light on the road to Damascus, Paul converted to Christianity. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians. “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
Claude Monet — All the Impressionists were fascinated by light but Monet devoted whole series of paintings to depicting it at different times of day. Read how he painted and re-painted the cathedral in Rouen, titling each painting by time of day — Morning 9-10 A.M.. Late Morning 11:45 A.M.-12 Noon.
Michael Faraday — Boyish, self-taught, and amazed by light, Faraday lit a candle at the start of each public lecture at the British Royal Society. He used a magnet to twist polarized light, paving the way for a deeper understanding.
Albert Einstein — After using the fixed velocity of light to “disturb the universe,” Einstein wrote a friend, “For the rest of my life I will reflect on what light is.”
John Keats — This Romantic poet used to sit on a cliff overlooking the sea, marveling at the rising moon. In his poem “Endymion,” he remembered:
What is there in thee, Moon! That
thou shouldest move
My heart so potently?
Louis Daguerre — The French inventor was the first to master the art of fixing light on paper. “I have seized the fleeting light!” he said. “I have forced the sun to paint pictures for me.”
Sun-Woman — According to a Miwok creation story, this goddess, clad in glittering abalone shells, was kidnapped by Coyote-Man. Dragged into the world, she brought First Light.
Albert Michelson — This physicist, first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics, spent his life clocking the exact speed of light. Why study light? “Because it’s so much fun,” Michelson replied