Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic waves in palpable media yielded the relation between the refractive index n of a negligibly absorbing medium and its relative permittivity (the permeability that of free space).1 Although he recognized that n and must be determined at the same frequency, few measurements were at hand in the 1870s. He did, however, find the published value 1.975 for the static relative permittivity of solid paraffin, which is cloudy and hence no more possesses a refractive index in the visible than ordinary clouds do. But he was able to obtain the refractive index () of liquid paraffin at three Fraunhofer lines, from which he extrapolated n to zero frequency, possibly the largest extrapolation in scientific history. His extrapolated value2 was 1.422 whereas was 1.405....
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR| March 01 2017
MAXWELL'S GOOD FORTUNE: THE VISIBLE REFRACTIVE INDEX AND STATIC RELATIVE PERMITTIVITY OF PARAFFIN
Craig F. Bohren; MAXWELL'S GOOD FORTUNE: THE VISIBLE REFRACTIVE INDEX AND STATIC RELATIVE PERMITTIVITY OF PARAFFIN. Am. J. Phys. 1 March 2017; 85 (3): 165. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4975385
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