Facts About Christiaan Huygens



  • Christiaan Huygens was the leading figure of the Golden Age of Dutch science in the 17th century, making contributions in many fields.
  • Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) was, after Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist of the 1600s.
  • Huygens was born to a wealthy Dutch family in The Hague, in Holland.
  • He studied law at the University of Leiden and the College of Orange in Breda before turning to science.
  • He worked with his brother Constanijn to grind lenses for very powerful telescopes.
  • With his powerful telescope, Huygens discovered in 1655 that what astronomers had thought were Saturn’s ‘arms’ were actually rings. He made his discovery known to people in code.
  • Huygens discovered Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
  • Huygens learned a great deal about pendulums and built the first accurate pendulum clock.
  • Responding to Newton’s theory that light was ‘corpuscles, Huygens developed the theory that light is waves (see moving light) in 1678.
  • Huygens described light as vibrations spreading through a material called cilia, which is literally everywhere and is made of tiny particles. The idea of ether wit!, finally abandoned in the late 19th century, but not the idea of light waves.
  • Huygens’ wave idea enabled him to explain refraction (see light) simply. It also enabled him to predict correctly that light would travel more slowly in glass than in air.
  • Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and the only satellite in the solar system known to have clouds and a dense atmosphere, was discovered in 1655 by Christiaan Huygens.