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By Sean F. Johnston

It is a background of the hidden workings of actual technological know-how - a technical endeavour embedded in a social context. It argues that this 'undisciplined' topic, straddling academia, trade and rules, might be usual not just of twentieth century technology, yet of its destiny.

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Trans. Roy. Soc. 84 67-82. Guillemin A 1868 Les Phe'nom2nes de la Physique (Paris) p 272 (my translation). Buchwald J Z 1985 The Rise of the Wave Theory of Light (Chicago) pp 45-8. Malus observed qualitatively that the brightness of light refracted through a crystal of Iceland spar varied in a complementary way to that of the reflected component as the crystal was rotated. Assuming the total intensity to be conserved, he deduced that the reflected component was proportional to the cosine of the angle squared and that the refracted component was proportional to the sine of the angle squared.

Mag. 19 764; Nichols E F and Tear J D 1923 'Short electric waves' Phys. Rev. 21 5871. These investigations explored radiations of similar wavelength using distinctly different sources, detectors and methodologies. This programme was largely detector centred, seeking to show the connections-indeed, to bridge the perceived gap-between infrared 'optical' radiation and electrically related 'radio' waves. Thus infrared spectroscopy emerged as a subject of study, attracting a small but active band of physicists who developed an analogue of visible-light spectroscopy, using infraredtransmitting lenses and prisms.

There was little evolution of technique through the period; instead, old ideas were recycled in new combinations and for new purposes. Observers thus had an assortment of methods at their disposal, ranging from the descriptive to the numerical. Until a consensus regarding the value of such observations was established, however, the methods remained diverse and unfocused. Scientific culture as much as material technology controlled the subject. The dual importance of these influences is revealed by two concurrent subjects related to intensity measurement which contrast sharply with the case of photometry.

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