James Gregory, British astronomer

James Gregory, British astronomer

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Caption: James Gregory (1638-1675), British astronomer and mathematician. Gregory was interested in astronomy from childhood. When only 25, he published his Optica Promata, which described his design for the first compact reflecting telescope. The so-called Gregorian telescope was the first practical device of its kind and remained the standard telescope for 150 years. Some of his mathematical ideas, such as infinitesimal geometry, were controversial, particularly as he was in regular correspondence with Isaac Newton. He was the first to use a diffraction grating, watching light split as it passed through a bird feather, much as Newton had done with a prism only a year before in 1665.

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