Diffraction, the Silk Handkerchief, and a Forgotten Founder

Stephen R. Wilk

Between signing the Declaration of Independence, composing opera, and helping to design the U.S. flag, Francis Hopkinson also dabbled in optics—using his silk handkerchief to observe diffraction.


imageForgotten founder Francis Hopkinson

Relatively few of the founding fathers of the United States are familiar to most Americans—which is a shame, since many were fascinating individuals who had accomplishments in several fields. Many have been completely eclipsed by the most famous founders, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and a handful of others. (Samuel Adams, who made many contributions to the Revolutionary War, is best known for the beer with his name—although he may not have been a brewer himself.)

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