Saturday, 23 March 2013


In 1704, the great Isaac Newton wrote the first scientific treatise on color theory (the physics of color interaction).  Newton's color wheel began the transformation of color from the unsupported intuitions of artists to the science that it has become today.

Goethe's color wheel from 1810

Chevreul's color wheel from 1855

Today we recognize that our sensory impressions of ideal colors were unreliable.  Instead, we measure vibrational frequencies and map spectrum space, defining quality in quantitative terms.   The science of colorimetry and organizations such as the International Commission on Illumination to help us achieve the miracles that digital color accomplish today.

As Galileo said, "The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics."

Many great scientists have made valuable contributions to this growing body of knowledge.  But the most important and useful color theorist remains Elizabeth Barret Browning:
"Yes," I answered you last night;
"No," this morning, sir, I say.
Colors seen by candlelight
Will not look the same by day.