“Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit..”
In 1637 Rene Descartes published a ground-breaking treatise on optics. His breakthrough was the discovery that an aspherical lens works better than a spherical lens. A spherical lens cannot focus the parallel rays of light into a single point. However, an aspherical lens can focus light on a single point. Unfortunately, Descartes did not have the necessary equipment to make such a lens.
That’s why scientists were amazed when they examined some rock crystal lenses in two European museums that date to 500 years before Descartes. The first lens to be noticed was on display in a Munich museum. It had been discovered at a Viking site in Sweden. Upon analysis, the lens turned out to be aspherical. Further study showed that the nearly 1,000-year-old lens is equal in quality with modern lenses. Was this lens just an accident by an ancient craftsman? Scientists turned to a museum in Visby, Sweden, which had several similar pieces. Close study revealed that each of these lenses, too, focused light as well as modern lenses! Apparently, Descartes merely rediscovered more ancient knowledge that had been lost.
How much of today’s new knowledge is merely a rediscovery of what the first human beings knew? After all, the Bible tells us that Adam was created as a perfect human being. It also tells us how the earliest generations of people were already working with metals and making musical instruments.
Prayer: Dear Father, help me to use the skills You have given me for You and to Your glory. Amen.
Notes: Discovering Archaeology Online, 3-4/00, “Medieval Craftsmen Rivaled Descartes.” Painting: Portrait of Rene Descartes by André Hatala. (PD)