Giovanni Rizzetti: Challenge to Newton's Optical Experiments

Scope and Content

The volume contains a draft letter from Rizzetti to Christino Martinelli, c.1720, with a description of Newton's experiment leading to the discovery of the aberration of light, and Rizzetti's experiment contradicting Newton's results; and two diagrams on refraction (p.13), the 'Anatomical composition of the eye' and the 'Aberration in telescopes with different lenses'. There are references to Descartes, Huygens and Tschirnhaus.

Administrative / Biographical History

Giovanni Rizzetti (1675-1751), Italian scientist, was a fierce critic of Sir Isaac Newton's optical theories. While the French edition of Newton's Opticks was in preparation, Rizzetti challenged some of Newton's experiments, his interpretation of them, and his theory of colours. Rizzetti repeated his challenge in a letter to Christino [sic] Martinelli. Newton suspected that an opponent, Antonio Schinella Conti had instigated Rizzetti's challenge.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Purchased 1995.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

Additional Manuscripts Summary Catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

Newton's copy of Rizzetti's letter is at King's College, Cambridge (Keynes MS 103).


Excerpts from the letter were published in Acta Eruditorum (1726), De luminis affectionibus (Treviso, 1727), and Saggio dell' antineutonianismo sopra le leggi del moto e dei colori (Venice, 1741).