What is the corpuscular theory of light

Was Newton's theory of corpuscular light influenced by that of Democritus?

In this article by William Jensen (Dept Chem, University of Cincinnati) on Newton & Lucretius, he describes the introduction of Epicurean atomism into the intellectual life of the Renaissance:

Although the manuscript of Lucretius' epic poem "On the Nature of Things" was first printed in book form and in many subsequent editions in 1473, it did not begin to have a significant impact on scientific thought until the 17th century ... Sir Isaac Newton was a second generation participant in this revival of atomism and was able to build on the earlier atomism of writers of the 17th century such as Pierre Gassendi, Walter Charleton and especially that of his older British contemporary Robert Boyle.


It is not known whether Newton was directly exposed to Lucretius' famous poem as a student. In the 1680s when he got serious about writing the Opticks started , he had almost certainly read Lucretius in the original, since among the surviving books in his personal library there was a Latin edition of De rerum natura from 1686, which a Newtonian scholar has described as "showing signs of concentrated investigation" (i.e. numbering of lines and dog-ears) [6] [7]. Likewise, the Scottish mathematician David Gregory reported in May 1694 on a conversation with Newton in which Newton stated that he could prove the following [8]: "The philosophy of Epicurus and Lucretius is true and ancient, but was misinterpreted by the ancients as atheism . "

He then describes various analogies between Epicurean atomism and the ideas of density, porosity and thinning. Finally he points it out

In the Opticks, Newton's interest in the question of the relative porosity or degree of dilution of materials was determined not by its possible relevance to questions of hardness, ease of melting, or the degree of chemical reactivity, but by its possible relevance to the interaction of matter with Light. Like Epicurus, Newton viewed light as composed of very tiny, fast-moving particles, and he was interested in how a body's porosity relates to its ability to transmit, reflect, refract, and / or selectively absorb these light particles.

The evidence looks plausible, but it seems that the influence of Democritus is not direct, but through Epicurus and mediated by Lucretious. In particular, he was the one Eidola Most likely unaware of Democritus and used the particle model of light from Epicurus.

[6] J. Harrison, Library of Isaac Newton, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1978, item 990, p. 183.

[7] BJ Teeter Dobbs, The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1991, p. 216.

[8] HW Turnbull, ed., The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, Vol. III, 1688-1694, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1961, p. 338