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A Reconsideration of Roger Bacon's Theory of Pinhole Images

Author(s): David C. Lindberg


Reviewed work(s):
Source: Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Vol. 6, No. 3 (29.V.1970), pp. 214-223
Published by: Springer
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Bacon'sTheory
A Reconsideration
of
ofRoger
Pinhole
Images
David C. Lindberg
Communicated
byM. Clagett
I. Introduction
Some time ago in this periodical,I publishedan analysis of the theoryof
One ofthetheories
century.1
pinholeimagesfromantiquitythroughthethirteenth
discussedwas that of Roger Bacon, drawnfromthe Opus maius and De multi- the onlytwo works,so faras I thenknew,whereBacon
plicationespecierum
consideredthe problem.In themeantimeI have had occasionto examineanother
; to my
work often attributedto Bacon, entitled De speculis comburentibus
considerable
devotes
its
that
this
I
discovered
title,
work,
space
despite
surprise,
it
became
of
the
to
of
its
fourth
Moreover,
images.
pinhole
theory
total)
(one
apparentthat the theoriestherediscussedadd considerableclarificationto the
century.If Bacon
developmentof the theoryof pinholeimagesin the thirteenth
to the theoryof pinhole
is indeed theirauthor,it is clear that his contribution
imagesmustbe reconsidered.
The question of authorshipneed not detain us for long. Both Glorieux
and Little list De speculiscomburentibus
among Bacon's genuineworks,and
theirjudgment.2In the firstplace,
a considerationof the evidencecorroborates
cannothave been written
sinceit was used by Pecham, De speculiscomburentibus
thus considerablynarrowingthe fieldof possible
later than the mid-1270's
authors.Since Bacon and Pecham wereboth Franciscansand residentstogether
in the Parisian conventduringthe 126O's,attributionof the treatiseto Bacon
would explain its availabilityto Pecham.3 Moreover,it is attributedto Bacon
in the explicit of the Vienna manuscript,and in the Bodley and Riccardian
Finally,
manuscripts(whereit is anonymous)it followsBacon's Perspectiva.41
5
bears the stamp of Bacon's authorship.
De speculiscomburentibus
stylistically
1 "The Theoryof PinholeImages fromAntiquityto the Thirteenth
Century,"
Archive
forHistoryofExact Sciences5, no. 2, 154- 176 (1968).
2 Palemn Glorieux, Rpertoire
de ans au jliii* siecce
en thologie
desmatres
Bacon
G.
A.
vol.
61.
ed.,
Little,
Essays (Oxford,1914),
Roger
2, p.
(Paris, 1933),
pp. 394- 395.
_ .
....
8 On the compositionof Pecham's Perspectivacommunisand the relationship
betweenBacon and Pecham,see my forthcoming
JohnPechamand theScienceof
Optics(Madison,Wisconsin,1970); cf.my "Lines of Influencein Thirteenth-Century
Optics:Bacon,Witelo,and Pecham,"forthcoming.
4 Actually,in theRiccardianmanuscript,
it is separatedfromBacon s Perspectiva
but all are in thesamehand,
Archimedean
an
leaf
a
fragment,
containing
by single
leaf.
withouttheintervening
is consecutive
and thefoliation
5 For example,as in his otherworks,Bacon refersto illustrative
figureswith
as: "and thisis the figure,""and thisis illustrated
by the figure
such expressions
to theside,""and I willsubjointhefigure."

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ofPinhole
Images
RogerBacon'sTheory

215

ifmodest,
It is extant
had a significant,
circulation.
De speculiscomburentibus
from
the
each
and
in at leastfourmanuscript
fourteenth,
fifteenth,
copies(one
or fifteenth
and
centuries
and anotherfromthefourteenth
sixteenth
century),
in
it
was
used
Pecham
Combach
itwasprinted
1614.6
Moreover,
extensively
by
by
exerteda continuous,
of pinholeimages,and thereby
in his discussion
though
ofthe
on thetheory
ofpinholeimagesdownto thebeginning
influence
indirect,
seventeenth
century.7
ofPinholeImages
II. Bacon'sTheory
ofpinholeimages
As I pointedout in myearlierarticle,Bacon's discussion
in theOpusmaiusand De multiplicatione
out
in
grew ofhisinterest
specierum
of lightor species.The same may be said of the discussion
the propagation

Bacon wrote De speculis comburentibus


containedin De speculiscomburentibus.

oftheEuclideanDe speculis,dealing
on thefinalproposition
as a commentary
He beginsby repeating
mirrors.8
theenunciation
withburning
and partsofthe
ofthatproposition
and thenturnsto fourquestionsthusraised
demonstration
the multiplication
of speciesand combustion
in burningmirrors:
regarding
ofraysoccuras theredescribed
? Second,ifit does,
First,doesthepropagation
as well?Third,if thereare othermodes
are thereothermodesof propagation
ofpropagation,
whichofthemis principal
andmostefficacious
in producing
light
andheat? Fourth,
whichmodeofpropagation
is chiefly
forcombustion
responsible
ThusDe speculiscomburentibus
mirrors?9
in burning
turnsout to be principally
a treatiseon themultiplication
oflightor species;indeed,in theViennamanuDe multiplicatione
title.
lucis,andthisis notan inappropriate
scriptit is entitled
The phenomena
ofpinholeimagesareintroduced
intothistreatisebecausethey
bearon thequestionofpropagation.

6 Florence,BibliotecaRiccardiana,MS 885, fols. 200r- 212r (14thc); Oxford,


BodleianLibrary,Bodley MS 874, pp. 71- 88 (iS^c); Oxford,Bodleian Library,
MS 440,fols.1r- 23v (16thc.) ; Vienna,sterreischische
Ashmolean
Nationalbibliothek,
- 15^0.). The printedversionis containedin Rogerii
MS 5311,fols.l08r- H3v (14th
BacconisPerspectiva,
ed. I. Combach(Frankfurt,
1614),pp. 168- 204. Both Little
and Glorieux list othermanuscripts
of De speculiscomburentibus,
but all are in
error.
7 On the circulationand influenceof Pecham's Perspectiva
see my
communis,
to Pecham'stheory
JohnPechamandtheScienceofOptics.Kepler knewand referred
ofpinholeimages.
8De speculiscomburentibus
has beenpreviously
discussedby JosephWrschmidt,
nach seinerSchrift
Arbeitens,
"Roger Bacons Artdes wissenschaftlichen
dargestellt
De speculis,"in RogerBacon Essays,ed. Little, pp. 229- 239. I use the expression
"Euclidean De speculis"to referto the Greekcompilationattributedto Euclid,
but doubtlessof later authorship,
whichhas been editedby Heiberg in Euclidis
operaomnia,edd. J.L. Heiberg & H.Menge (Leipzig,1883- 1895),vol.8; it is
to be distinguished
froman Arabiccompilation
to
by the same titlealso attributed
Euclid. Both weretranslatedinto Latin and circulatedwidely.The fact that De
is based on a proposition
oftheEuclidean De speculishas led
speculiscomburentibus
to a greatdeal ofconfusion
identified
; manyofthemanuscripts
erroneously
byLittle
and Glorieux as Bacon's De speculiscomburentibus
actuallycontainDe speculis.
9 Ed. Combach,p. 171. I have collated threemanuscriptsand the Combach
edition,but I givecitationsto theCombacheditionforthesakeofconvenience.

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216

D.C. Lindberg:

Bacon takesforgranted
hisargument,
twofactsofobservation,
Throughout
to
test
the
of
theoriesof prowhichhe repeatedly
employs
validity particular
solar
a
cast
the
:
by
rayspassingthroughtriangular
aperture
pagationfirst, image
likethe aperture;second,thereis
is roundlikethesun ratherthantriangular
ofthebeamoflightimmediately
before
an initialnarrowing
beyondtheaperture
ofthese"facts"hadbeenacknowledged
sinceantiquity
dilationbegins.Thefirst
and is valid; thesecond,so faras I know,is originalwithBacon and invalid.
but if he
Bacon justifiesbothof themwithclaimsof directobservability;10
didso in theraysofhisgeometrical
observedthesecond,he probably
diagrams
realapertures.11
ratherthanin lightpassingthrough
ofreason
withtheteachings
Whatmodesofpropagation,
then,arecompatible
data gatheredfrompinholeimages?Bacon describes
and withobservational
fivepossiblemodesofpropagation:
alongeitherparallel
lightcan be multiplied
of
can be
the
if
or intersecting
lines,
lines; alongintersecting
place intersection
theaperture,
orbeyond
within
thesunandtheaperture,
onorinthesun,between
thatall but thefinal
theaperture.12
However,he finds,on closerexamination,
fromthesunto theaperture
If lightweremultiplied
twocan be falsified.
along
parallellines,it wouldissuefroma portionofthesun equal in size and shape
to the apertureand wouldmaintainthatformbeyondthe aperture;however,
and light
is smallerthantheaperture,
we observethat"lightneartheaperture
to
farfromthe apertureis largerthanthe aperture.Therefore
multiplication
lines
interother
in
some
must
take
along
Multiplication
way/'13
place
apertures
a similardefect
suffers
sectingin thesun or betweenthesun and theaperture
in thesameway: lightwouldthenbe dilatedimmediately
and can be falsified
of our
whereas"we faithfully
proveby the testimony
beyondthe aperture,
De
from
1
the
is
narrowed
that
3,
speculis
Figures
aperture.14
beyond
light
eyes"
thesefirstthreemodesofmultiplication.
illustrate
comburentibus,
Bacon maintains,are both
two modesof multiplication,
The remaining
oflightthrough
inthepropagation
instrumental
First,lightismultiplied
apertures.
10Ed. Combach,pp. 186, 190, 191: "...the shape of the lightwouldbe similar
to the shape of the apertureat everydistance,the contraryof whichwe faithfully
proveby the testimonyof the eyes." "...we sensiblyobservethat lightnarrows
beyondtheaperture."". . .whatI see withtheeye I cannotdeny."
11Solarlightprojectedthrougha triangular
apertureontoan opaque screengives
riseto an initiallytriangular
image,whichenlargeswithdistancefromthe aperture
and graduallyassumesa circularform.However,at thatdistancefromthe aperture
to thecircularimageis mostrapid,theouter
fromthetriangular
wherethetransition
portionsof the imagebecomequitefaint;thusit is possiblethatcasual observation
if the surrounding
of such images,particularly
lightis intense,would lead one to
I doubt
as it recedesfromtheaperture.
Nevertheless,
supposethatthebeamcontracts
that this "contraction"is obviousenoughto be observedby anybodynot looking
withoutcorroborating
forit or to be maintained
arguments.
12One could deviseotherschemesof classification,
and thisis mineratherthan
of the possiblemodes
Bacon's. On severaloccasions,Bacon beginsan enumeration
but he nevergetsbeyondthe firstmodebeforeplungingintosubof multiplication,
categoriesand losinghis trainofthought.
13Ed. Combach,p. 186: "Nam lumenpropeforamen
et longe
minusest foramme
ad foramina."
est maius.Necesseest ergoquod alia via fiatmultiplicatio
14Ibid.: . . .lide probamusoculata.

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RogerBacon'sTheoryofPinholeImages

217

fromthe maximumtriangleinscribable
on the surfaceof the sun facingthe
in
aperture(ABC Figure4) through
apertureEFD to an apex at G. Second,
theentiresurface
orcone,from
in
the
form
of
a
round
is
pyramid,
light multiplied
oftheaperture,
H.15Nowwhenthetwo
ofthesunto an apex at themidpoint

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Q><e3T
Fig. 3

Fig. 4

are considered
it is clearthatthe observedphenomena
are
pyramids
together,
for.If IK represents
theintersection
ofthetwopyramids,
then
fullyaccounted
between
theaperture
andIK thecomposite
beamis triangular
and continuously
beamis roundand continuously
dilated.
contracted;
beyondIK, thecomposite
"All thesethings/'Bacon concludes,
"are in completeharmony
withsensible
whichwe manifestly
experience,
apprehend
bymeansoftheeyeswithout
fallacy
ordeception/'16

15I have drawnFigure4 as it appearsin the manuscripts.


AlthoughH appears
to be a pointon sideDE o theaperture,
it is clearfromthetextthatBacon regards
H as thecentralpointoftheaperture,
equallydistantfromD, E, and F.
16Ed. Combach,p. 189: "Et hec omnia
sunt convenienzapenitusexperientie
oculismanifeste
sinealiqua fallaciaaut deceptione."
sensibili,
quam comprehendimus

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218

D. C. Lindberg:

So farBacon has discarded


threemodesofmultiplication
thatarein conflict
withthesupposedfactsof observation
and has discovered
thatthe remaining
twomodes,considered
together,
nicelysave the penomena.But all of the diseitheron rationalor on observational
cardedmodescan be solidlydefended,
fromonepoint
it
cannot
be
denied
thatlightis multiplied
For
grounds. example,
" sincevision
ofonepointofthesunoccurs
ofthesunto all partsofthemedium,
fromall pointsof the medium,as anybodycan testby sense."17
Also,"that
of
in
the
medium
from
the
sun
to
is
points
equallydistant
light multiplied points
does
not
seem
to
contradiction
on
lines
one
[from another]alongparallel
open
wouldliketo maintainthatvisioncan occur
unlesssomebody
rationalgrounds,
of a speciesof the visibleobjectto sight,and thisno
withoutmultiplication
the mostimportant
of the
sensibleman seemsto posit."18Finally,regarding
- namely,thatin whichlightemanatesfrom
discardedmodesofpropagation
and
thewholesurfaceofthesunto an apex betweenthesunand theaperture
thencontinues
opposite
beyondthe apex to forma secondpyramidvertically
thefirst(seeFigure3) - Bacon admitsthat
the said mode of multiplication
the argumentsestablishing
appear irrefutable
to me,forhowwouldvisionofthewholeportionofthesun [facingtheobserver]
to that
take place fromeverypointof the mediumunlesslightweremultiplied
be narrowed
alsowouldtheshadowofanything
pointfromthewholeportion? How
werethus?19
unlessmultiplication

establishthe
Bacon is thusfacedwitha dilemma.Irrefutable
arguments
withthe
in conflict
thatseemhopelessly
existenceof modesof multiplication
Bacon
the
to
As
aids
the
senses.
of
dilemma,
cautiously
escaping
testimony
The firstis thata solitary
advancestwo"suppositions."
rayoflight(i.e.,a ray
ofthemedium)cannot
a
the
sun
to
of
a
from
single
point
singlepoint
emanating
theeyecannot
be seen.Bacon doesnotmean,by this,thatsucha rayentering
medium
a transparent
causesightofthesun,butthatsucha raypassingthrough
situatedoffto theside,becausesecondary
cannotbe seenby an observer
species
to
affect
are
not
the
from
contrast,
sight.
By
strong
enough
ray
solitary
emanating
a windowcan easilybe seenbecauseit is
a housethrough
a rayoflightentering
numberofraysissuingfrom
an infinite
terminate
its
at
point
every
composite;
for
therayis sufficiently
ofthesun.Therefore
otherpointson thesurface
strong
thepowerofsight.Thata solitary
fromit to affect
speciesemanating
secondary
If a singleray should
by anotherargument:
ray cannotbe seenis confirmed
and heatingare
illumination
since
theair,it wouldalso heattheair,
illuminate
ofrayswould
number
infinite
an
alwaysassociated;butifoneraywouldheat,
or
a
even
without
mirror,
Therefore,
glass burning
burning
producecombustion.
17Ibid., p. 191: "...cum visio uniuspunctisolis fiatab omnibustalibuspunctis
medii,sicut...quilibetad sensumexperitur."
18Ibid.: "...lucem multiplicana punctissolis equedistantibus
ad punctamedu
rationabiliter
videtur
non
lineas
posse contradici,
equedistantes
equedistantiasuper
nisivelitquis dicerevisionemposse fierisine specievisibilisad visummultiplicata,
quod nullussapiensponervidetur."
19Ibid.: "Rationesetiamdictummodummultiplications
probantesminividentur
insolubiles,
qualiterenimfieretvisio totiusportionissolis a quolibetpunctomedii
? Qualiteretiam umbra
nisi ad punctumillud a tota portionelux multiplicaretur
?"
nisisic fieretmultiplicatio
cuiuslibetreicoangustaretur

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RogerBacon'sTheoryofPinholeImages

219

combustionwould occur at every point of a medium opposite the sun, since


at each pointan infinitenumberof raysterminate.20
The second suppositionis that an intenselightconceals a weak lightand a
large light conceals a small light. This is proved by the fact that solar light
concealsstellarlightduringthe day, forstars are visible duringdaylighthours
fromthe bottomof a well or pit, whichexcludessolar rays fromthe eye.21
How do these suppositionsenable Bacon to escape his dilemma? Consider
Figure5, in whichlightis shownemanatingfromportionABC ofthesun through
apertureDEF. Three of the principalmodes of multiplicationare represented
A

Fig. 5
by rays convergingto formapices at points K, E, and G. Bacon has already
at pointsE and G (forming
acknowledgedthat multiplication
by raysconverging
round and triangularpyramids,respectively)is fully compatible with both
rationalargumentsand observationaldata. The problemarises with rays convergingto an apex at K. It seemsevidentthatraysare multipliedin thismanner,
is in conflictwiththe observationthat rays contract
and yet such multiplication
beyondthe aperture.Bacon solves the problemby arguingthat rays AF and
CD, when extendedbeyond the aperture,are solitaryrays, because no other
solar rays can terminateon them.Thus, by the firstsupposition,they are too
weak to be seen. (Bacon adds that raysAF and CD are also weak because they
proceedtangentiallyfromthe sun.) Moreover,by the second supposition rays
AF and CD are concealedbecause of the presenceof the radiationrepresented
by triangularpyramidA CG, whichoverpowersthemwithits superiorintensity.
Bacon's argumentexplainingthe invisibilityof rays AF and CD is effectual
and unexceptionable.It is truethat the most extremerays issue froma limited
are concealedby moreintenseraysin thevicinity.
portionofthesun and therefore
But can the same be said forrays fallingbetweenAF and AI or betweenCD
and CHI These too most be eliminatedfromconsiderationbeforeBacon can
claim that the triangularpyramidconvergingto an apex at G and the round
to an apex at E containall the lightefficacious
in producing
pyramidconverging
thesolarimage.In fact,as Bacon shouldhave recognized,theintensityofillumination falls offgraduallyas we pass throughthe penumbralregion between
rays CH and CD, and thereis no legitimatereason forignoringall radiation
outsideray CH. Yet Bacon arguesthat he can do preciselythat: "The reason
20Ibid.,pp. 191-19321Ibid.,p. 193. On thehistoryof stellarobservations
duringdaylighthoursfrom
a pit,see A. Sayili, "The 'ObservationWell'," Actesdu VIIe congrs
internationale
histoire
des sciences(Jerusalem,
1953),pp. 542- 550. Reportsof such observations
go back at least to Aristotle.
46 Arch.Hist. Exact Sci., Vol. 6

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220

D. C. Lindberg:

is the same forsinglerays passing throughsinglepoints of line DH, forsince


few [solar]raysare terminatedat the pointsofsuchraysby comparisonwiththe
infinitemultitudeof rays terminatedat individual points of the triangular
pyramid,. . . the superiorlight[ofthe triangularpyramid]will be able to conceal
the other [light]."22Similar reasoningis applicable to multiplicationby the
modesillustratedin Figures1 and 2. Bacon thus accepts the teachingof reason
that rays are multipliedin all the modes originallyconsidered,while arguing,
as sense experiencerequires,that rays multipliedin the firstthree modes are
invisiblerays.23
invisible.He has escaped his dilemmaby introducing
III. Conclusion
What is the significanceof the theoryof pinhole images contained in De
? It should be noted, firstof all, that Bacon does not
speculiscomburentibus
associatetheproblemofpinholeimageswiththecameraobscuraor thefunctioning
ofthehumaneye. Althoughhistorianshave directedtheirattentionto the theory
of pinholeimagesbecause of its bearingon theseotherproblems,Bacon's work
appeared several centuriesbeforesuch applicabilitywas firstsuggested.24Nor
does Bacon relate the theoryof pinholeimages to observationof eclipses, as
and Pseudo-EucLiD before him, and John Pecham,
did Pseudo-ARiSTOTLE
William of St. Cloud, and JohnKepler afterhim.25Bacon is simplyinterested
in the geometricalmodes in whichlightis propagated,and he investigatesthe
phenomenaof pinholeimagesbecause they providean arena fortestingtheories
of propagation.
It is noteworthy,
also, that Bacon avoids suggestingeven the possibilityof
in orderto explain how
nonrectilinear
propagation.A numberof commentators,
noncircularaperturesproduce circularimages, have resortedto nonrectilinear
rays. John Pecham, forexample,took this step in his Tractatusde perspectiva,
and De sphera.Witelo, althoughapparentlymaintaining
Perspectivacommunis,
a formalallegianceto the rectilinearpropagationof light,in fact compromised
it severely.Indeed, Bacon himselfhints,in De multiplicatione
specierum,at the
in
De
Here
nonrectilinear
however,
speculiscomburentibus,
propagationof light.26
modesofpropagationare instrumental
it is simplya questionofwhichrectilinear
in producingthe observedphenomena.
22Ed. Combach,p. 195: "Eadem est ratio in singulisradiistranseuntibus
per
ad puncta
singulapunctalineeDH, scilicetquod quia pauci radii conterminantur
in
infinitorumradiorumconterminalium
. . . respectumultitudinis
taliumradiorum
poteritlux ilia excellensreliquamoccultare."
singulispunctispiramidistriangule,
23Thereis nothing
sinceBacon advanceswhat
aboutthisprocedure,
objectionable
oftherays.
fortheinvisibility
he regardsas validand persuasivearguments
24Forbibliography
ofthetheoryofpinholeimages,see my Iheory
on thehistory
of PinholeImages,"pp. 155- 15725On William of St. Cloud's use of an apertureforobservingsolar eclipses,
de la
Histoirelittraire
Astronome,"
see Emile Littr, "Guillaumede Saint-Cloud,
France,vol. 25 (Paris,1869),p- 73-On Pseudo-Aristotle, Pseudo-EucLiD,and John
Pecham,see my"Theoryof PinholeImages."Kepler's workon the subjectis now
of BritishColumbia.
beinginvestigated
by Stephen Straker ofthe University
26On the possiblenonrectilinear
propagationof lightin the workof Bacon,
Witelo, and Pecham,see my"Theoryof PinholeImages,"pp. 163- 165,168- 173,
176.

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Roger Bacon's Theory of Pinhole Images

221

oflightwas governed
Bacon's inquiryintothemodesof propagation
by a
newobservational
datumthathe himself
introduced
into
the
apparently
theory
ofpinholeimages.Mostofthosewhohave dealtwithpinholeimages(PseudoAristotle, Witelo, Pecham,Maurolyco, Kepler) have accepted,as the
crucialobservation,
the factthatthe imageassumesthe shape of the source
The onlyotherobservation
oflightratherthantheshapeoftheaperture.
that
ofpinholeimageswas thefact,
influence
on thetheory
had exerteda significant
thatthe imageis widerthanthe aperture.27
stressedby Pseudo-EucLiD,
Now
Bacon was fullyawareofthesedata,buthe introduced
anotherthatwas offar
of his theory:immediately
in governing
the development
greaterimportance
theaperture,
thebeamoflightbeginsto contract
afterpassingthrough
before
It was thissupposedfactthatled Bacon to discardall but
eventualdilation.28
- or,rather,to arguethatall but the twowere
twomodesof multiplication
It was alsothisconcentration
on thesize,ratherthan
so weakas to be invisible.
Bacon to ignorecertainproblems
theshape,oftheimagethatpermitted
that
seemedso crucialto others,such as the shape of the imageproducedby an
aperture
duringa solareclipse.
The degreeofsuccessachievedby Bacon is revealedby a briefcomparison
ofhistheory
withthoseofPechamandWitelo. Pecham'sfinaltheory
maintains
thatprimary
radiationpassingthrough
an apertureconforms
to the shape of
theaperture,
whilesecondary
radiationalwayspassesoutsidetheprimary
beam
in a circularform;consequently,
solarradiationpassingthrougha triangular
aperturegivesrise to a beam,both primaryand secondaryradiationbeing
But thereis a fatalflawin thetheory:theprimary
thatis circular.
considered,
beamalwaysconforms
to theshapeoftheaperture,
and thesecondary
beamis
all imagesshouldbe roundregardless
oftheshape
alwaysround;consequently,
oftheluminous
radiation
is tooweakto stimulate
body- unlessthesecondary
theeye,inwhicheventtheimageshouldhavetheshapeoftheaperture.
Witelo's
maindifficulty
was defective
he defended
theabsurdproposition
that
geometry:
froma singleluminous
a squareaperture
raysoflightemanating
pointthrough
forma roundedbeamwithout
fromrectilinearity.
Bacon's
eventually
departing
avoids
both
of
these
It
has
faults.
the
over
Pecham's
theory
advantage
theory
ofmaintaining
a directcorrespondence
betweentheshapeoftheluminous
body
and the shapeof the image;forit is the pyramidemanating
fromthe entire
surface
oftheluminous
thatdeterbodyto an apexat thecenteroftheaperture
minesthe eventualshapeof the composite
beam.And,of course,Bacon was
as was Witelo.
guiltyofno suchgeometrical
absurdity
But Bacon's theory
has itsownweaknesses.
The mostseriousis itshandling
oflightintensities.
Bacon's argument
thatno rayswithinthepenumbral
region
- as JohnPecham,forone,fully
are visiblewillnotwithstand
closescrutiny
realized.29
Thereis no abruptreduction
oflightintensity
as oneentersthepenumandthereis nojustification
forignoring
all penumbral
bra,buta gradualdecrease,
to an apex at the centerof the aperture
rays.Thus the pyramidconverging

27Ibid., pp. 160- 161.


28See footnote11, above.
29In determiningthe shape of the
image, Pecham considersall the rays,including
those fallingwithin the penumbra. He explains the circularityof the image by recourse to secondaryradiation fallingoutside the primaryradiation.
16*

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222

D. C. Lindberg:

the eventualshape of the compositebeam, and


cannot,afterall, determine
Bacon's advantageoverPechamevaporates.
Finally,sincemy earlierarticlemade Pechamout to be one of the more
to inquire
in theearlyhistory
ofpinholeimages,it is pertinent
prominent
figures
mustnowbe revised.SurelyPechamno longerappears
whether
thatjudgment
as it formerly
seemed.Muchof his
an investigator
to be quiteso independent
his
are
taken
fromDe speculis
of
and
arguments
many
conceptualapparatus
others
who
maintain
thisor that
to
his
references
and
comburentibus,
frequent
to De speculiscomFor example,Pechamis referring
nowbecomeintelligible.
the cause [of
burentibus
whenhe writes:"Othersmoresubtlyinvestigating
a triangular
in radiationthathas passedthrough
roundness
aperture]consider
of therays
ofthesun as a remotecause . . .and theintersection
theroundness
to elaborateBacon's viewthatthe
Pechamproceeds
cause/'30
as theproximate
fromthewholesurfaceofthesunto an apex at the
roundpyramid
emanating
at points/ and K (see
thetriangular
intersects
centeroftheaperture
pyramid
beam.Pecham
of
the
the
determines
and
thereafter
composite
shape
Figure4)
to solvethe problemof pinholeimagesby
also followsBacon in attempting
radiation.Thereare manyother
as well as primary,
secondary,
considering
and Pecham's,and considerable
betweenBacon's argument
similarities
lightis
on themeaningof certainpassagesin Pecham'saccountby a reading
thrown
ofBacon.
It turnsout
do notdetractfromPecham'simportance.
But thesesimilarities
a figure
as it onceseemed,butwhathe wroteon
thatPechamis notso solitary
Pechamrepeated
thesubjectofpinholeimagesis no lesssignificant.
Although
he thenrefutedit withan original
Bacon's theoryof intersecting
pyramids,
Bacon in considering
he followed
and tellingargument.31
secondary
Although
He ignored
function
in his theory.32
he assignedit quitea different
radiation,
30Perspectivacommunis,
edition: "Alii
Bk. I, prop.5, frommy forthcoming
. . . ponunt causm remotam,
subtiliuscausm attingentessolaremrotunditatem
causmpropinquam."
radiorumautemintersectionem
31See my "Theoryof PinholeImages,"pp. 170- 17332ForBacon, secondary
themeansforseeingprimary
radiationis merely
radiation,
thatis forseeingtheimageor beamproducedby theaperture.Pecham,by contrast,
regardssecondaryradiationas a part of the imageor beam: secondaryradiation,
orcircular
ina spherical
whichis alwaysmultiplied
form,
spreadsoutsidethetriangular
radiationand producesa circularimage- which,one mustpresume,
beamofprimary
radiation.
is thenobservedby tertiary
There is, however,some confusionor ambivalencein Pecham's utilizationof
exterior,and
interior,
secondaryradiationin his De sphera,wherehe distinguishes
of the image firstto exteriorrays
secondaryradiationand attributescircularity
interdifferent
and laterto secondary
rays.I shouldpointout thatthisis a slightly
in myearlierarticle(p. 174),where
pretationof Pecham's De spherathan I offered
I identiofreadingBacon's De speculiscomburentibus)
(notyethavinghad thebenefit
fiedexteriorand secondaryradiation;in fact,both interiorand exteriorrays are
to
to Bacon's triangular
interiorrays corresponding
pyramidconverging
primary,
to Bacon's circular
an apex at pointG (Figure5) and exteriorrayscorresponding
Thusin De sphera,
to an apex at thecentralpointoftheaperture.
converging
pyramid
of the solar image formedby a triangularaperture
Pecham attributescircularity
radiation(following
radiation;
to exterior
Bacon) andto secondary
primary
alternately
himselfto secondary
he restricts
communis
in his revisedversionof the Perspectiva
radiation.

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RogerBacon's TheoryofPinholeImages

223

Bacon's claim that radiationcontractsafterpassingthroughthe aperture.He


treatedthe complicatedphenomenon,ignoredby Bacon, of the hornedimage
producedduringa solareclipse.He avoidedBacon's fallaciousargumentregarding
the invisibilityof all penumbralradiation.He skilfullyexplored,and refuted,
the claimthatsolarrayspassingthrougha triangularaperturecan, by rectilinear
radiationalone give rise to a circularimage. Althoughthe comparisonbetween
Bacon's theoryand Pecham's is not always to the advantage of Pecham's,
it is clearthat Pecham wentconsiderablybeyondBacon in analyzingthe phenomena of pinholeimages.
Researchforthispaperwas supported
by a grantfromtheU.S. NationalScience
Foundation.
Departmentof the Historyof Science
ofWisconsin
University
Madison
(ReceivedJuly25,1969)

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