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Brewster, David (1781-1968)
Sir David Brewster made the first empirical determination of what is now know as Brewster's angle in 1812.

Descartes, Rene (1596-1650)
Rene Descartes was the first to publish the law of refraction in terms of sines.

Fermat, Pierre de (1608-1665)
Pierre de Fermat formulated the now famous principle of least time in 1657.

Fresnel, Augustin Jean (1788-1827)
French physicist Augustin Jean Fresnel made the first calculation of diffraction patters from various obstacles.

Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician, is the father of kinematics. After building one of the first telescopes, Galileo discovered four moons of Jupiter in 1610.

Huygens, Christiaan (1629-1695)
Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, discovered the phenomena of polarization, derived the laws of reflection and refraction, and formulated what is now known as Huygens principle.

Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)
In addition to his work on celestial mechanics, Kepler made the first discovery of total internal reflection sometime before 1611.

Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879)
James Clerk Maxwell unified and extended what was previously known about electricity and magnetism into what is now known as Maxwell's equations.

Poynting, John Henry (1852-1914)
See Poynting vector.

Snell, Willebrord (1591-1626)
Willebrord Snell, a professor at Leyden, discovered the law of refraction empirically in 1621.

Young, Thomas (1773-1829)
Formulated the principle of interference during 1801-1803.

Department of Physics and Astronomy - Northwestern University