History of optics: a modern teaching tool

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The history of optics is a very rich field of science and it is possible to find many simple and significant examples of the application and success of the experimental method and therefore is a very good tool to transmit to the student the way science proceeds and to introduce the right spirit of critical analysis, building and testing of models, etc. Optical phenomena are specially well suited for this because in fact optical observations and experiments have made science advance in a crucial way in many different periods of history, because they are in many cases quite visual, quite simple in concept and it is very easy to produce experimental setups in classrooms. Also, the intrinsic multidisciplinary character of Optics, which is a subject that has historically influenced in a notorious way fields as art, philosophy, religion and cultural and social studies in general, provide a very wide frame that permits to apply these examples to many different auditories. We present here some reflections about the role that history of optics can play in teaching and show some real examples of its application during the many years that we have been employing it in the context of the Optics School of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain.
Proc. SPIE 8481, Optics Education and Outreach II. Event: SPIE Optical Engineering + Applications, 2012, San Diego, California, United States Copyright 2012 Society of Photo Optical Instrumentation Engineers. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic reproduction and distribution, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper are prohibited.