Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Research Article

XVIII.—Experiments on Colour, as perceived by the Eye, with Remarks on Colour-Blindness

James Clerk Maxwella1

a1 Trinity College, Cambridge.

The object of the following communication is to describe a method by which every variety of visible colour may be exhibited to the eye in such a form as to admit of accurate comparison; to show how experiments so made may be registered numerically; and to deduce from these numerical results certain laws of vision.

The different tints are produced by means of a combination of discs of paper, painted with the pigments commonly used in the arts, and arranged round an axis, so that a sector of any required angular magnitude of each colour may be exposed. When this system of discs is set in rapid rotation, the sectors of the different colours become indistinguishable, and the whole appears of one uniform tint. The resultant tints of two different combinations of colours may be compared by using a second set of discs of a smaller size, and placing these over the centre of the first set, so as to leave the outer portion of the larger discs exposed. The resultant tint of the first combination will then appear in a ring round that of the second, and may be very carefully compared with it.