James MacCullagh’s ether: An optical route to Maxwell’s equations?
CNRS, Laboratoire SPHERE: Rehseis, 83 rue Broca, 75013
Revised: 30 June 2010
Published online: 30 September 2010
In attempts to perfect Fresnel’s theory of double refraction, MacCullagh discovered an elegant geometrical proof of the wave surface, the true boundary conditions at the limits of the refracting crystal, and a simple Lagrangian for the whole theory. By renouncing mechanical modeling in favor of a more abstract dynamical method, he unveiled the structure which optics came to share with Maxwell’s electrodynamics.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2010