Works of Christiaan Huygens published during his lifetime or as a consequence of his last will


One should be aware that as an overview of Huygens' work and influence, a mere list of his publications is only of relative value. In many cases, Huygens was rather slow to publish his discoveries, or simply to finish something off. Several writings only saw the light many years after they had been conceived and some works Huygens planned to write were never printed during his lifetime. This is the case for instance for his work on centrifugal force, which is presently considered one of his greatest achievements, and for his treatise on dioptrics.

However, this does not mean that the works he kept in manuscript remained totally unknown. The printed word was decidedly less important as a means of communication in the seventeenth century than it is nowadays. Learned correspondence between scholars or communications to scientific academies had something of a 'public' character as well. Huygens waged an intensive correspondence with many scholars at home and abroad, and for many years was a leading member of the Paris Academy of Sciences.

Moreover, one should keep in mind that Huygens was not just a theoretician, but also a very competent maker and inventor of instruments and other apparatus: clocks, telescopes, air-pumps, planetaria, and so on. Much of his theoretical work was related to these more practical activities, and his inventions often were based on elaborate theoretical considerations. Thus, Huygens influence went not only by the printed word. Much of it was embodied in instruments and designs. Some of these were officially registered by patents.

So, Huygens' importance in history of science cannot be reduced to having published a number of works. This said, an overview of his publications is certainly of use for the sake of reference and as a research tool. In some way, they mark his scientific career. Huygens' publications can be subdivided into several categories. The list starts with some mostly mathematical mathematical treatises by which he presented himself to the learned world. They are often of a rather limited scope, although some of them are more important. Then, there are a number of important works on major subjects, which appeared to deserve elaborate treatment in a separate treatise. Here, Huygens disclosed his theories and discoveries in a systematic way. Finally, especially at the end of his life, there are quite a number of minor contributions in learned journals, mostly reactions to the work of others. In previous years, these probably would have remained contained to correspondence, but with the rise of learned journals in the second half of the seventeenth century such debates increasingly were waged by the printed word.

In the Oeuvres complètes, (vol. 22, pp. 373-381), the editors already provided a list of Huygens' publications. This list, however, is at some points not very accurate and rather hard to use for non-expert readers. Still, it has been the starting point for the following list, but adapted and corrected where we found this necessary. The list contains all the scientific papers published by Christiaan Huygens before his death on 8 July 1695. It also mentions later reprints and translations into other languages as well as relevant references to the Oeuvres complètes de Christiaan Huygens. Where known, internet links have been added to publications that are available online via the Internet.

1 – Separate works published by Christiaan Huygens

2 – Posthumous works of Christiaan Huygens

3 – Works of Christiaan Huygens published in learned periodicals

Note: Some of the early scientific journals of the time, notably the Journal des sçavans, existed in several editions. Apart from the original Parisian edition, there were pirated editions in Cologne and Amsterdam and a Latin edition in Leipzig. In the following, we refer only to the original edition, not to reprints or translations of the series. However, translations or reprints in other journals are mentioned, e.g. an edition in the Philosophical Transactions of an article originally published in the Journal des sçavans.

4 – Publications of Christiaan Huygens in Divers ouvrages de mathématique et de physique (1693)

In 1693, several pieces by Huygens were published in a volume of scientific articles published in France: Divers ouvrages de mathématique et de physique, par Messieurs de l'Académie Royale des Sciences ["Various works of mathematics and physics, by the members of the Paris Academy of Sciences"] (Imprimerie Royale, Paris, 1693). The volume was edited by the astronomer Philippe de La Hire and included papers by Jean Picard, Gilles Personne de Roberval, Bernard Frénicle de Bessy and Edme Mariotte. De La Hire also asked Huygens to submit some contributions. Huygens made a choice from his manuscripts. Most of the pieces were several years old. In 1724, these pieces were reprinted in the Opera varia. The editors of the Oeuvres complètes sometimes preferred the original version from the manuscripts. As they appeared in 1693, the pieces include:

5 – Works by others, or not published under Huygens' name, but which refer to Christiaan Huygens

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