In the English Language section, this question was asked. I posted the beginnings of an answer, and invited others to comment so that I could edit my answer and improve it.

I'd like to know about the history of optics, and the field of optics. My questions:

  1. If someone today says they are in the field of optics, I would think that they work with lenses, light, lasers, etc. I would not think that they work with the human eye and the visual system. Is this true?
  2. At one time, it seems that the field of optics did include interest in how humans see. At what point did this interest in the eye start shifting to medicine and away from physics?
  3. Many sources say the ancients were interested in optical illusions. I cannot find what these were. What were they?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is quite broad. Each sub-question should really be its own question. That said, #1 is off-topic for HSM. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Sep 20, 2015 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Desert mirages and rainbows were known since prehistoric times of course, the earliest specific reference to optical deception is by Epicharmus (c. 540-450 BC), a physician from Cos. Plato, Aristotle and Epicurus discuss theories of vision, Aristotle even mentions a primitive camera obscura mlahanas.de/Greeks/Optics.htm I agree with HDE, this question should be split into three, or we'll have to close it. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Sep 20, 2015 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 I'm going to make number four a separate question. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2015 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ You'll want to update the question then - and, like I said, perhaps split the rest of it up. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Sep 23, 2015 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ Even after the edit, I still think this is a bit broad. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Sep 24, 2015 at 23:40

2 Answers 2

  1. This is right. Optics is a part of physics, not biology not medicine. But the person who prescribes eyeglasses is called an optometrist which has the same root.

  2. It still includes. This part is called optics of the eye. It studies the eye optical system. Like there is an instrumental optics, and many other parts. There are also optical studies of other (non-human) eyes in biology.

  3. Why most of our scientific terminology uses Greek and Latin? Because science was invented by the Greeks. All our civilization comes from Greek and Roman civilization. During a very long period, until 17s century, Latin was the universal language of science and education in Europe. They did not study English of French or Polish in schools and universities. They studied Latin. But Latin itself used Greek science terms. Because science was invented in Greek. Nowadays scientists and engineers do not study Latin or Greek, so they invent terms mixing Latin and Greek roots.

  • $\begingroup$ So someone during the 17th century might read a book in Greek about optics, then write about the book in Latin and mix the two words "optica" (Greek) and "illusio" (Latin)? $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2015 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ It is likely that most Greek books were already translated into Latin by the 17 century. Latin was the language of science since the Middle Age till 18 century, though many scientists also learned Greek as a part of their education. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2015 at 17:15

On optics, telescope and illusions at the origin of modern science, see History of the telescope and e.g. :


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