In Biot's earlier experiments the beam of light employed was nearly parallel: the phenomena of rings and brushes that are seen with a conical pencil of light were discovered by Sir David Brewster in the case of uniaxal crystals in 1813 and in that of biaxal crystals in 1815.
Then with an uniaxal plate perpendicular to the optic axis, the black cross is replaced by two lines, on crossing which the rings are discontinuous, expansion or contraction occurring in the quadrants that contain the axis of the quarter-wave plate, according as the crystal is positive or negative.
A similar rotary property is possessed by other uniaxal crystals, such as cinnabar and the thiosulphates of potassium, lead and calcium, and as H.
This refractive index should be equal to the greatest index of the plate, and with a biaxal plate the mean axis of optical symmetry should be parallel to its faces and in the normal section of the prisms, while with an uniaxal plate the optic axis should be in a plane perpendicular to this normal section.
Airy extended Fresnel's hypothesis to directions inclined to the axis of uniaxal crystals by assuming that in any such direction the two waves, that can be propagated without alteration of their state of polarization, are oppositely elliptically polarized with their planes of maximum polarization parallel and perpendicular to the principal plane of the wave, these becoming practically plane polarized at a small inclination to the optic axis.
In general a stream of plane-polarized light undergoes no change in traversing a plate of an uniaxal crystal in the direction of its axis, and when the emergent stream is analysed, the light, if originally white, is found to be colourless and to be extinguished when the polarizer and analyser are crossed.