Abstract. Atmospheric aerosols directly affect climate by scattering and absorbing radiation. The magnitude of the impact is dependent upon the wavelength of light, but is often estimated near 550 nm. When light scattering and absorption by aerosols is approximated, the wavelength dependence of the refractive index for specific components is lost. As a result, climate models would have inherent uncertainties for aerosol contributions to radiative forcing when considering the entire solar spectrum. An aerosol extinction differential optical absorption spectrometer has been developed to directly measure aerosol extinction at mid-ultraviolet to near infrared wavelengths. The instrument consists of a spectrometer coupled to a closed White-type multi-pass gas cell with an adjustable path length of up to approximately 20 m. Laboratory measurements of various gases are compared with known absorption cross sections. Additionally, the extinction of monodisperse samples of polystyrene latex spheres are measured and compared to Mie theory generated with refractive index values from the literature to validate the new instrument. The polystyrene experiments also emphasize the ability of the new instrument to retrieve the wavelength dependent refractive index, especially in the ultraviolet wavelength regions where variability is expected. The spectrometer will be a significant advancement for determining wavelength dependent complex refractive indices in future laboratory studies as well as provide the ability to monitor ambient aerosol light extinction.