The invention of spectroscopy.

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  • Spectroscopy is an analytical method used to study the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation ( for example, light).
  • When a prism is placed in front of a ray of light, a rainbow of colours is formed. Like this:

  • The Romans were the first to discover the ability of a prism to disperse light.

A spectroscope is any device that displays the spectrum of light emitted from any type of matter, for example, gas or a metal that is lit on fire. The spectrum created is characteristic of the type of matter. In 1802, the English scientist William Hyde Wollaston first observed dark lines within the spectrum of sunlight. The following diagram depicts his experiment (in his book “A method of examining refractive and dispersive powers, by prismatic reflection”, pages 378-380):


Here is a painting of William Hyde Wollaston: