Pioneers of Color Science
This page covers basic information about certain figures that contributed to the development of the field of Color Science which comprises the study of human color perception, psychology, and physiology, as well as specification, quantification, and reproduction of color. A more complete set of records will be available in the near future in the publication Pioneers of Color Science (Springer) and readers should refer to that resource for additional information.
Color Science is a truly multidisciplinary domain with many individuals contributing significantly to improve our understanding of this unique experience.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
He was a German writer, artist, and politician. His body of work included epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of meters and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany; anatomy; color; and four novels.
He found the light spectrum, from the Theory of Colors. Goethe observed that with a prism, color arises at light-dark edges, and the spectrum occurs where these colored edges overlap.
Young made notable scientific contributions to the fields of vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony, and Egyptology. In the paper entitled Experiments and Calculations Relative to Physical Optics, published in 1804, Young describes an experiment in which he placed a narrow card in a beam of light from a single opening in a window and observed the fringes of color in the shadow and to the sides of the card. He observed that placing another card before or after the narrow strip so as to prevent light from the beam from striking one of its edges caused the fringes to disappear. This supported the contention that light is composed of waves.
Young has also been called the founder of physiological optics. In 1793 he explained the mode in which the eye accommodates itself to vision at different distances depending on the change of the curvature of the crystalline lens; in 1801 he was the first to describe astigmatism; and in his lectures, he presented the hypothesis, afterward developed by Hermann von Helmholtz, that color perception depends on the presence in the retina of three kinds of nerve fibers.
Rudolf Hermann Arndt Kohlrausch
The Helmholtz-Kohlrausch effect (after Hermann von Helmholtz and Rudolf Kohlrausch)is an entoptic phenomenon wherein the intense saturation of spectral hue is perceived as part of the color’s luminance. This brightness increase by saturation, which grows stronger as saturation increases, might better be called chromatic luminance, since “white” or achromatic luminance is the standard of comparison. It appears in both self-luminous and surface colors, although it is most pronounced in spectral lights.
Ibn Sahl’s treatise on Burning Mirrors and Lenses sets out his understanding of how curved mirrors and lenses bend and focus light. Ibn Sahl is credited with first discovering the law of re-fraction, usually called Snell’s law. He used the law of refraction to derive lens shapes that focus light with no geometric aberrations, known as anaclastic lenses.
He was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. He investigated the refraction of light, demonstrating that a prism could decompose white light into a spectrum of colors and that a lens and a second prism could recompose the multicolored spectrum into white light. Modem scholarship has revealed that Newton’s analysis and resynthesis of white light owe a debt to corpuscular alchemy. He also showed that the colored light does not change its properties by separating out a colored beam and shining it on various objects. Newton noted that regardless of whether it was reflected or scattered or transmitted, it stayed the same color. Thus, he observed that color is the result of objects interacting with already-colored light rather than objects generating the color themselves. This is known as Newton’s theory of color.
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz
He was a German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science. In physiology and psychology, he is known for his mathematics of the eye, theories of vision, ideas on the visual perception of space, color vision research, the sensation of tone, perception of sound, and empiricism. Helmholtz’s interests were mainly focused on the physiology of the senses. His main publication provided empirical theories on depth perception, color vision, and motion perception, and became the fundamental reference work in his field.
Discoveries include Purkinje images (reflections of objects from structures of the eye) and the Purkinje shift (the change in the brightness of red and blue colors as light intensity decreases gradually at dusk).
William de Wiveleslie Abney
Abney was a pioneer of several technical aspects of photography. His father had been an early photographic experimenter and friend of Richard Keene, an early Derby photographer. Keene became a close friend of William and his brother Charles Edward Abney (1850-1914). Both Abney’s sons subsequently became founder members of the Derby Photographic Society in June 1884. His endeavors in the chemistry of photography produced useful photographic products and al so developments in astronomy. He wrote many books on photography that were considered standard texts at the time, although he was doubtful that his improvements would have a great impact on the subject Abney investigated the blackening of a negative to incidental light. In 1874, Abney developed a dry photographic emulsion, which replaced “wet” emulsions. He used this emulsion in an Egyptian expedition to photograph the transit of Venus across the sun In 1880, he introduced lydroquinone. Abney also introduced new and useful types of photographic paper, including in 1882 a formula for gelatin silver chloride paper. Abney conducted early research into the field of spectroscopy, developing a red-sensitive emulsion that was used for the infrared spectra of organic molecules. He was also a pioneer in photographing the infrared solar spectrum (1887), as well as researching sunlight in the medium of the atmosphere.
Karl Ewald Konstantin Hering
He was a German physiologist who did much research into, color vision and spatial perception. He proposed opponent color theory in 1892. Hering disagreed with the leading theory developed mostly by Thomas Young and Hermann von Helmholtz. Hering instead believed that the visual system worked based on a system of color opponency. Hering’s proposal is now widely recognized as nearer to the neurophysiological truth, while the red, green, and blue primaries dominate in the engineering of color reproduction. Hering looked more at qualitative aspects of color and said there were six primary colors, coupled in three pairs: red-green, yellow-blue, and white-black. It also explained afterimages.
Mach bands is an optical illusion named after the physicist Ernst Mach. The illusion consists of light or dark stripes that are perceived next to the boundary between two regions of an image that have different lightness gradients (even if the lightness itself is the same on both sides of the boundary).