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Thomas Young

Thomas YoungAKA Thomas Young, Jr.

Born: 13-Jun-1773
Birthplace: Milverton, England
Died: 10-May-1829
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: Respiratory failure
Remains: Buried, St. Giles Church Cemetery, Farnborough, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist, Doctor, Archaeologist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Wave Theory of Light

English physicist Thomas Young showed that Isaac Newton's theory of particle light was incorrect, and instead argued that light is a transverse wave. Called in his time the English Leonardo, he studied a dozen languages, had a major impact on at least three branches of science, and was elected a member of the Royal Society at the age of 21.

He used diffraction experiments to determine wavelengths of the visible spectrum, showed the interference caused by ultraviolet rays, and proved that light goes through a phase flip when reflected from a denser medium. He developed Young’s Modulus, the rules of elasticity still used by present-day engineers, and the Young Temperament, a method for tuning musical instruments. He conducted relatively advanced research into the mathematics of tides, and wrote a report for the Admiralty suggesting structural improvements in the design of wooden ships.

He was also an Egyptologist, and began the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone later completed by Jean-François Champollion, but he thought of himself primarily as a physician. His medical research showed how the lens of the eye alters its curvature as it focuses on objects at greater or lesser distances, and explained that color perception requires only the ability to discern between blue, green, and red. He published much of his work under pseudonyms, fearing that his scientific research could hamper his reputation as a physician, so it is possible that not all of Young's work is identified as such. His descendants include noted zoologist John Zachary Young.

Father: Thomas Young (tailor, banker)
Mother: Sarah Davis Young (ten children)
Wife: Eliza Maxwell Young (m. 14-Jun-1804, no children)

    Medical School: University of Edinburgh (attended)
    Medical School: MD, University of Göttingen (1796)
    Teacher: Physics, Cambridge University (1796-99)
    Teacher: Physics, Royal Institution of Great Britain (1801-03)

    Egyptian Society
    Royal Society 1794
    Royal Society Foreign Secretary (1804-29)
    French Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
On the Theory of Light and Colors (1802)
A System of Practical Nosology (1804)
Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy (1807)
An Account of Some Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphical Literature and Egyptian Antiquities (1823)
An Introduction to Medical Literature, including a System of Practical Nosology (1823)
A Practical and Historical Treatise on Consumptive Diseases (1815)
Miscellaneous Works of the Late Thomas Young (1855, posthumous)

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