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Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov – Oration on the Origin of Light. A New Theory of Colour – 01 On light and Light



Type of Spiritual Experience


Lomonosov was interested in the subject of optics from the beginning of his career, and when he turned to the manufacture of mosaics, he extended this interest to the phenomenon of color.

After he began his experiments on the preparation of colored glasses in the chemical laboratory built for him in 1748, he worked intensively in this field. Between 1750 and 1754, as indicated in letters to Euler, he developed a theory of color along with his practical work. The application of his corpuscular theory was extended from the kinetics of material bodies to the kinetics of the matter of ether, and he combined his chemical and physical views to produce a form of wave theory of light and colour. This is one of the few extensions of his theoretical ideas which he carried out after he ceased to work very actively in theoretical physics and chemistry in about 1750. In 1756 he felt ready to present his views to the Academy, and after several preliminary discussions, he gave his formal oration on July 1, 1756. It was published by the Academy as a separate issue of 400 copies in Russian in 1758; a Latin translation, also in 400 copies, was issued in 1759. The work was widely known and commented upon by scholars in western Europe at the time, and was known also to Thomas Young when he worked on the theory of colour. The Russian text is given in Collected Works, III (1952), pp. 315-344, and in Selected Works, pp. 294-317.

A description of the experience

Oration on the Origin of Light. A New Theory of Colour, Presented in a Public Meeting of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, July 1, 1756, by Mikhail Lomonosov Translated, by Henry M. Leicester [Professor of Biochemistry]; Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970

The investigation of nature is difficult, my auditors, but it is pleasant, useful, and holy. The more its secrets reach the mind, the greater is the pleasure felt by the heart. The more our zeal thus expands, the more abundantly do we gather its fruits for the use of the world. The more deeply the discussion of such marvellous matters penetrates to the reasons themselves, the more clearly do we see the impenetrability of the ever living Creator.

 In His omnipotence, majesty, and great wisdom, we find the first, general, true and outspoken teachings of the visible world. The heavens announce the glory of God.

He gives first place to the sun, that is, in it we see the divine radiance more clearly than in any other object. Because of the vastness of its universal structure it shines continuously to the farthest planets, exceeding the dreams of human swiftness by its instantaneous and incomprehensible rays. By their continuous and lightning-like rapidity these swift and favoring rays arouse other creatures to industry, shedding light, warming, and animating not only the human mind, but also, it seems, the dumb beasts who are animated by some divine presence. What is this measureless Light which seems to be an ocean in which the internal sanctuary of nature is revealed to the curious eye and by whose rays a great part of the other secrets of nature are revealed to the zealous seeker?

The source of the experience

Lomonosov, Mikhail Vasilyevich

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