In his poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” John Keats wrote: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’ –that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” (1819). Much commentary has been written about this expression and what it means. The kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Sir David Brewster, a Scottish philosopher whose pioneering work in optics resulted in many important inventions such as the Fresnel lens used in lighthouses. The name “kaleidoscope” was given to Brewster’s invention because it combined the Greek word kalos, which means “beautiful” and eidos, which means idea or pattern. Could it be that Keats was inspired not only by a Grecian urn but also by this extremely popular invention?
For more information on kaleidoscopes and Sir David Brewster, visit the web site of the Brewster Society: http://www.brewstersociety.com.