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AN UNCONVINCING TRANSFORMATION? MICHELSON'S INTERFERENTIAL SPECTROSCOPY

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<title> SUMMARY </title>A.A. Michelson spent most of his career exploiting the phenomenon of optical interference to pursue a variety of scientific investigations, including the constancy of the speed of light, metrology and spectroscopy. During the late 1880s and 1890s he developed these interference methods into a form of extremely high-resolution spectroscopy that he came to call the 'Method of Light Wave Analysis'. The technique revealed phenomena such as the fine structure and Doppler broadening of spectral emission lines for the first time. While the method was cited as a basis for his later Nobel prize, Michelson gave it up for a variety of reasons. The scheme was slow and difficult, involving the counting of interference 'fringes'; the theoretical basis for translating these observations into a spectrum was not obvious; the analysis relied upon a specialised mechanical calculator and could deal only with simple features. Contemporary spectroscopists evinced little interest in the method because it relied on an alien conceptualisation of spectroscopy, unfamiliar laboratory skills, inconsistencies of observation and, not least, because the highly-respected Michelson had himself moved from 'Light Wave Analysis' to 'echelon' spectroscopy. Michelson and his unpopular interferential method nevertheless assisted the transition towards high-resolution and non-visual spectroscopies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Glasgow

10.1163/221058703X00183
/content/journals/10.1163/221058703x00183
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2016-10-01

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