Science - History and Education                                                                                  

The historical development of science is fascinating, providing valuable perspectives on both the technical and the human side of research.  Aside from its intrinsic interest I (like many others) have found that tracing the historical development of science while teaching is an extremely effective means of engaging student interest and enthusiasm. 

History of Refraction

In an undergraduate context, the history of the law of refraction is a particularly rich example to use for this purpose, as it involves major figures from classical, Arabic and modern European science.  In fact one could even argue that it hasn't yet stopped, given the intense recent interest in metamaterials and negative refraction.  Some papers that I have written on the subject involving the generally forgotten contributions of Thomas Harriot and Ibn Sahl can be downloaded below. 

There is also something a little different; a short note on the identity of the sitter in a portrait assumed to be that of Thomas Harriot that hangs in the President's Room in Trinity College Oxford.


Selected Publications

J. M. Dudley, A. M. Kwan, "Snell's Law or Harriot's?", The Physics
Teacher 35, 158-159 (1997)

A. Kwan, J. M. Dudley, E. Lantz, "Who really discovered Snell's
law?", Physics World 15, 64-84 (2002)

J. M. Dudley, "A Tale of Two Portraits : A note on two alleged
images of Thomas Harriot," The Harrioteer: The Newsletter of the
Thomas Harriot Seminar, Durham University (UK), 6-8 (Avril 2000)

Feynman Lectures at the University of Auckland

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Auckland, senior students would occasionally pull out of a cupboard some old VHS video tapes of some lectures given by Feynman at Auckland in 1979.

In fact, these lectures were a "dress-rehearsal" of his 1983 UCLA  lectures on upon which he based his book QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.  As a staff member some years later, I was involved in a project involving the University of Auckland, Ralph Leighton and the Feynman family to archive and distribute these lectures on a non-profit basis.  Thanks to further work by Sir Harry Kroto, these lectures have now been made freely available in streamed format through the website of the Vega Science Trust.  A short paper on the history of these lectures, some specific quotations, and the differences between the Auckland and UCLA lectures can be downloaded following the link below.


Some of my favourite excerpts from these lectures are now online on YouTube 

The Way Nature Works ...

Hungry Philosophers ...

YouTube Video

Selected Publications

J. M. Dudley, A. M. Kwan
"Richard Feynman's Popular Lectures on Quantum Electrodynamics - The 1979 Robb Lectures at Auckland University",
American Journal of Physics 63, 694-698 (1996)

Some Resources

History of the law of refraction poster: (PDF).  A graphical timeline: (PDF).

Thanks to Alistair Kwan for permission to include these on this site.