Mirror, Mirror: A History Of The Human Love Affair With Reflection

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Basic Books, 2009 M04 28 - 448 pages
Of all human inventions, the mirror is perhaps the one most closely connected to our own consciousness. As our first technology for contemplation of the self, the mirror is arguably as important an invention as the wheel. Mirror Mirror is the fascinating story of the mirror's invention, refinement, and use in an astonishing range of human activities -- from the fantastic mirrored rooms that wealthy Romans created for their orgies to the mirror's key role in the use and understanding of light. Pendergrast spins tales of the 2,500year mystery of whether Archimedes and his "burning mirror" really set faraway Roman ships on fire; the medieval Venetian glassmakers, who perfected the technique of making large, flat mirrors from clear glass and for whom any attempt to leave their cloistered island was punishable by death; Isaac Newton, whose experiments with sunlight on mirrors once left him blinded for three days; the artist David Hockney, who holds controversial ideas about Renaissance artists and their use of optical devices; and George Ellery Hale, the manic-depressive astronomer and telescope enthusiast who inspired (and gave his name to) the twentieth century's largest ground-based telescope. Like mirrors themselves, Mirror Mirror is a book of endless wonder and fascination.

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Page 142 - Merciful Heaven ! Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak Than the soft myrtle : but man, proud man, Drest in a little brief authority, — Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd, His glassy essence, — like an angry ape, Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As make the angels weep ; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.
Page 113 - I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Page 142 - Come, come, and sit you down ; you shall not budge ; You go not till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you.
Page 112 - How came the bodies of animals to be contrived with so much art, and for what ends were their several parts? Was the eye contrived without skill in optics, and the ear without knowledge of sounds ? How do the motions of the body follow from the will, and whence is the instinct in animals?
Page 106 - Some Rays are disposed to exhibit a Red Colour, and no other, some a Yellow, and no other, some a Green, and no other, and so of the rest. Nor are there only Rays proper and particular to the more eminent Colours, but even to all their intermediate Gradations.
Page 112 - But to derive two or three general principles of motion from phenomena, and afterwards to tell us how the properties and actions of all corporeal things follow from those manifest principles, would be a very great step in philosophy, though the causes of those principles were not yet...
Page 106 - But, to determine more absolutely, what Light is, after what manner refracted, and by what modes or actions it produceth in our minds the Phantasms of Colours, is not so easie. And I shall not mingle conjectures with certainties.
Page 213 - Fizeau, that we can scarcely avoid the inference that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena.
Page 181 - Among opticians and astronomers nothing now is talked of but what they call my great discoveries. Alas! this shows how far they are behind, when such trifles as I have seen and done are called great. Let me but get at it again II will make such telescopes and see such things — that is, I will endeavor to do so.

About the author (2009)

Mark Pendergrast was born in Atlanta and is a graduate of Harvard University. A business journalist, he has published articles and reviews in a number of magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the Sunday Times (London), and Financial Analyst.

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