Luminiferous aether

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In the late 19th century, luminiferous aether or ether, meaning light-bearing aether, was the term used to describe a medium for the propagation of light.[1] The word aether stems via Latin from the Greek αιθήρ, from a root meaning to kindle, burn, or shine. It signifies the substance which was thought in ancient times to contain the manipulative forces beyond control.[citation needed]


The history of light and aether

To Robert Boyle in the 17th century a little before Newton, the aether was a probable hypothesis and consisted of subtle particles, one sort of which explained the absence of vacuum and the mechanical interactions between bodies, and the other sort of which explained phenomenon such as magnetism (and possibly gravity) that were inexplicable based on the purely mechanical interactions of macroscopic bodies:

Isaac Newton contended that light was made up of numerous small particles. This could explain such features as light's ability to travel in straight lines and reflect off surfaces. This theory was known to have its problems: although it explained reflection well, its explanation of refraction and diffraction was less satisfactory. In order to explain refraction, Newton's Opticks (1704) postulated an "Aethereal Medium" transmitting vibrations faster than light, by which light, when overtaken, is put into "Fits of easy Reflexion and easy Transmission", which caused refraction and diffraction. Newton believed that these vibrations were related to heat radiation:

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