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Experimental Determination of the Velocity of Light Made at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis   By: (1852-1931)

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In Albert A. Michelson's Experimental Determination of the Velocity of Light Made at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, readers are immersed in the groundbreaking research undertaken by one of the most brilliant minds in the field of physics. Michelson, a pioneering scientist, provides a comprehensive account of his meticulous experiments that aimed to measure the speed of light, a pursuit that had eluded researchers for centuries.

The book begins by delving into the historical background of previous attempts to measure the velocity of light, highlighting the limitations and shortcomings of these approaches. Michelson then proceeds to explain the principle behind his own ingenious method, involving the use of rotating mirrors and sophisticated interferometers. The detailed exposition allows readers to follow along as he pushes boundaries and navigates the complex landscape of his experiments.

What sets this book apart is Michelson's ability to strike a perfect balance between technical rigor and accessibility. By breaking down complex scientific concepts into digestible explanations, he ensures that readers from all backgrounds can appreciate and comprehend his discoveries. His clear articulation of the experimental setup, methodology, and data analysis cultivates a sense of engagement and excitement as the reader follows his progress.

Moreover, Michelson demonstrates not only his scientific prowess but also his meticulousness and attention to detail. He meticulously describes the equipment used, provides schematics of apparatus, and, where necessary, meticulously explains the adjustments and calibration required to ensure precise measurements. These meticulous insights into the experimental process foster a deep appreciation for Michelson's dedication, as well as the immense value of empirical research.

Throughout the book, Michelson meticulously documents his experimental data and the numerous trials and errors he encountered along the way. This transparency allows readers to witness the evolution of his ideas and appreciate the scientific method in action. Michelson's unwavering determination to achieve precision, no matter the adversity faced, is truly inspiring and serves as a testament to his unwavering commitment to scientific inquiry.

In addition to the scientific content, Michelson interweaves personal anecdotes and reflections, offering glimpses into the challenges he faced during the course of his research. These anecdotes humanize the larger-than-life figure of Albert A. Michelson, transforming him from an abstract scientist to a relatable individual with a genuine passion for his work.

In conclusion, Experimental Determination of the Velocity of Light Made at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis is a captivating and illuminating read that takes readers on a journey through one of the most remarkable scientific investigations of its time. Michelson's unwavering dedication, scientific rigor, and groundbreaking discoveries make this book a must-read for anyone interested in the history of physics, optics, or the scientific endeavor as a whole.

First Page:

Page images provided by Case Western Reserve University's Digital Preservation Department

Experimental Determination of the Velocity of Light

Made at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.


Albert A. Michelson, Master U.S. Navy.


The probability that the most accurate method of determining the solar parallax now available is that resting on the measurement of the velocity of light, has led to the acceptance of the following paper as one of the series having in view the increase of our knowledge of the celestial motions. The researches described in it, having been made at the United States Naval Academy, though at private expense, were reported to the Honorable Secretary of the Navy, and referred by him to this Office. At the suggestion of the writer, the paper was reconstructed with a fuller general discussion of the processes, and with the omission of some of the details of individual experiments.

To prevent a possible confusion of this determination of the velocity of light with another now in progress under official auspices, it may be stated that the credit and responsibility for the present paper rests with Master Michelson.

Simon Newcomb, Professor, U.S. Navy , Superintendent Nautical Almanac .

Nautical Almanac Office, Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington, February 20, 1880... Continue reading book >>

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