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M. Cauchy seems to have been the first who saw fully the utility of applying to the Theory of Light those formulae which represent the motions of a system of molecules acting on each other by mutually attractive and repulsive forces; supposing always that in the mutual action of any two particles, the particles may be regarded as points animated by forces directed along the right line which joins- them. This last supposition, if applied to those compound particles, at least, which are separable by mechanical division, seems rather restrictive; as many phenomena, those of crystallization for instance, seem to indicate certain polarities in these particles. If, however, this were not the case, we are so perfectly ignorant of the mode of action of the elements of the luminiferous ether on each other, that it would seem a rcafer method to take some general physical principle as the bf-sis of our reasoning, rather than assume certain modes of action, which, after all, may be widely different from the mechanism employed by nature; more especially if this principle include in itself, as a particular case, those before used by M. Cauciy and others, and also lead to a much more simple process *f calculation. The principle selected as the basis of the reasoning contained in the following paper is this: In whatever way the elements of any material system may act upon each other, if all the internal forces exerted be multiplied by the elements of their respective directions, the total sum for any assigned portion of the mass will always be the exact differential of some function. But, this function being known, we can immediately apply the general method given in the Mtcanique Analytique, and which appears to bo more especially applicable to problems that relate to the motions of systems composed of an immense number of particles mutually acting upon each other. One of the advantages of this method, of great importance, is, that we are necessarily led by the mere process of the calculation, and with little care on our part, to all the equations and conditions which are requisite and sufficient for the complete solution of any problem to which it may be applied.

The present communication is confined almost entirely to the consideration of non-crystallized media; for which it is proved, that the function due to the molecular actions, in its most general form, contains only two arbitrary coefficients, A and B; the values of which depend of course on the unknown internal constitution of the medium under consideration, and it would be easy to shew, for the most general case, that any arbitrary disturbance, excited in a very small portion of the medium, would in general give rise to two spherical waves, one propagated entirely by normal, the other entirely by transverse, vibrations, and such that if the velocity of transmission of the former wave be represented by >JA, that of the latter would be represented by A/jb. But in the transmission of light through a prism, though the wave which is propagated by normal vibrations were incapable itself of affecting the eye, yet it would be capable of giving rise to an ordinary wave of light propagated by


transverse vibrations, except in the extreme cases where -g = 0, A

or -g = a very large quantity; which, for the sake of simplicity,

may be regarded as infinite; and it is not difficult to prove that the equilibrium of our medium would be unstable unless A 4

7g > g . We are therefore compelled to adopt the latter value of A

-g, and thus to admit that in the luminiferous ether, the velocity

of transmission of waves propagated by normal vibrations is very great compared with that of ordinary light

The principal results obtained in this paper relate to the tensity of the wave reflected at the common surface of two media, both for light polarized in and perpendicular to the plane of incidence; and likewise to the change of phase which takes place when the reflexion becomes total. In the former case, our valne3 agree precisely with those given by Fresnel; supposing, as he has done, that the direction of the actual motion of the particles of the luminiferous ether is perpendicular to the plane of polarization. But it results from our formulae, when the light is polarized perpendicular to the plane of incidence, that the expressions given by Fresnel are only very near approximations; and that the intensity of the reflected wave will never become absolutely null, but only attain a minimum value; which, in the case of reflexion from water at the proper angle, is -fa part of that of the incident wave. This minimum value increases rapidly, as the index of refraction increases, and thus the quantity of light reflected at the polarizing angle, becomes considerable for highly refracting substances, a fact which has been long known to experimental philosophers.

It may be proper to observe, that M. Cauchy (Bulletin des Sciences, 1830) has given a method of determining the intensity of the waves reflected at the common surface of two media. He has since stated, (Nouveaux Exercises des Mathdmatiques,) that the hypothesis employed on that occasion is inadmissible, and has promised in a future memoir, to give a new mechanical 'principle applicable to this and other questions; but I have not been able to learn whether such a memoir has yet appeared The first method consisted in satisfying a part, and only a part, of the conditions belonging to the surface of junction, and the consideration of the waves propagated by normal vibrations was wholly overlooked, though it is easy to perceive, that in general waves of this kind must necessarily be produced when the incident wave is polarized perpendicular to the plane of incidehce, in consequence of the incident and refracted waves being in different planes. Indeed, without introducing the consideration of these last waves, it is impossible to satisfy the whole of the conditions due to the surface of junction of the two media. But when this consideration is introduced, the whole of the conditions may be satisfied, and the principles given in the Mtcanique Anulytique became abundantly sufficient for the solution of the problem.

In conclusion, it may be observed, that the radius of the sphere of sensible action of the molecular forces has been regarded as insensible with respect to the length X of a wave of light, and thus, for the sake of simplicity, certain terms have been disregarded on which the different refrangibility of differently coloured rays might be supposed to depend. These terms, which are necessary to be considered when we are treating of the dispersion, serve only to render our formulae uselessly "complex in other investigations respecting the phenomena of light


Let us conceive a mass'Composed of an immense number of molecules acting on each other by any kind of molecular forces, but which are sensible only at insensible distances, and let moreover the whole system be quite free from all extraneons action of every kind. Then x, y and z being the co-ordinates of any particle of the medium under consideration when in equilibrium, and

x + u, y + v, z + w,

the co-ordinates of the same particle in a- state of motion (where u, v, and w are very small functions of the original co-ordinates (x, y, z), of any particle and of the time (<)), we get, by combining D'Alembert's principle with that of virtual velocities,

%Dm ^ Bu + £j 8v + ^^8u)| ~%Do. 8(p (1);

Dm and Dv being exceedingly small corresponding elements of the mas3 and volume of the medium, but which nevertheless contain a very great number of molecules, and S£ the exact differential of some function and entirely due to the internal actions of the particles of the medium on each other. Indeed, if $<f> were not an exact differential, a perpetual motion would be possible, and we have every reason to think, that

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