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Text II: History of colour theory
History of colours dates back to the ancient Greek philosophical texts written in dialogues by Plato and Timaeus (390BC), passages in writing of Aristotle (350BC) and De Coloribus (330BC). In that study of colour the interests of artistic painters and their understanding of the behavior of light and colour were taken as a basis.
According to the old colour mixing theory the “simple” or primary colours were white and black or light and dark. From this primaries the “noble” hues of red, yellow and blue were mysteriously derived. By mixing the “noble” hues, the ancient artists got the “composite” hues of orange (gold), green and purple.
In 1390, Cennino Cennini published a description of how artists worked with colour. He described seven colours. Four (black, red, yellow and green) were mineral in character. Three more - lime white, the blues (ultramarine, lapis lazuli and azurite) and orange were colours which needed to be developed artificially.
In the visual arts, colour theory is a body of practical guidance to colour mixing and the visual impacts of specific colour combination. There are also categories of colours based on the colour wheel: primary colour, secondary colour and tertiary colour. Although colour theory principles first appeared in the writings of Leone Battista Alberti (1435) and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1490). The tradition of "colory theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy around Isaac Newton's theory of colour and the nature of so-called primary colours.
In 1704, Sir Isaac Newton published his Opticks, which made several points about colour. He said that the source of colour was not substances, but light. He demonstrated that the different colours of the spectrum result from light being refracted. He called this attribute of light refrangibility from the Latin word refringere which means the ability to be refracted. He distinguished that each colour had a specific angle of refraction, when light passes through a prism of lens. He argued that orange or violet light were just as “primitive” as red and yellow because they cannot be broken down farther into more basic colour. He identified seven primary colours in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
Newton saw the colour spectrum as a close system. He attached the red starting point to the violet end point and made a “circle of colours”where the red and violet overlapped and added the colours of magenta and puple which did not appear in the color spectrum. There was no black and white in the circle, but the center was white, which corresponded to the result of mixing all light colours together. But Newton did not understand the difference between additive and subtractive colour mixing. The knowlege of this is directly connected with the special structure of a human eye, which was discovered later after Newton’s reseaches.
In 1810, Goethe published his comprehensive Theory of Colours in which he described the physiological effects of colour.
In 1801 Thomas Young proposed his trichromatic theory, based on the observation that any colour could be matched with a combination of three lights. This theory was later refined by Jame Clerk Maxwell and Hermann von Helmholtz. Newton's law of mixture were experimentally confirmed by Maxwell in 1856.
At the same time as Helmholtz, Ewald Hering developed the opponent process theory of colour, noting that colour blindness and afterimages typically come in opponent pairs (red-green, blue-orange, yellow-purple, and black-white). Ultimately these two theories were synthesized in 1957 by Hurvich and Jameson, who showed that retinal processing corresponds to the trichromatic theory.
Exercise 1: Answer the following questions:
Exercise 2: Find the English equivalent to the Russian word:
a) to refract
b) to reflect
c) to react
a) colour blindness
b) colour separation
c) colour definition
Exercise 3: Match a scientist with his biographical facts :
Exercise 4: Complete the sentences with correct endings:
1. Some researchers report that humans can distinguish about:
a) 10 million different colours;
b) 16 million different colours;
c) 1 million different colous.
2. Most of the colours we see around us and all the colours we see on TV or computer monitor can be created from:
a) four different coloured lights;
b) seven different coloued lights;
c) three different coloured lights.
3. The human eye has three types of cones which receive:
a) ultraviolet wavelengths;
b) short, medium, and long wavelengths;
c) infrared wavelengths.
4.The additive primary colours are:
a) black and white;
b) cyan, magenta and yellow;
c) red, green and blue.
5. Colour blind person can distinguish:
a) fewer colours;
b) more colours;
c) no colours.
Exercise 5: Fill in the gaps, using the words from the box:
Exercise 6: Put the sentences into appropriate Perfect tenses:
4. It was mentioned that a colour-blind reproduction system (to give) very inaccurate results for the other observers, human or non-human.
5. Newton (to identify) seven primary colours before he (to publish) his book Opticks .
6. You (to read) any philosophical texts about colours?
7. We arrived at work in the morning and found that somebody (to break) into the laboratory during the night.
8. At first, I thought I (to do) the experiment well, but I soon realised that I (to make) a big mistake.
Exercise 7: Match the term with the definition:
Exercise 8: Translate into Russian:
Exercise 9: Read and act out the dialogue:
Speaker 1: -What is a rainbow?
Speaker 2: - I think it’s one of the most spectacular light shows observed on earth. Indeed the traditional rainbow is sunlight spread out into itsspectrum of colours and diverted to the eye of the observer by water droplets.
Speaker 1: -Why does the rainbow bow?
Speaker 2: -Really, this shape of rainbow describes the fact that the rainbow is a group of nearly circular arcs of thecolour all having a common center.
Speaker 1: -What makes the bow?
Speaker 2: -Well, we see the formations of a rainbow by raindrops. It’s a problem in optics that was first clearly discussed by Rene Descartes in 1637. The bow appears not only in the sky, but also in the air near us, whenever there are drops of water illuminated by the sun, as we can see in some fountains. The rays of light act on these drops and pass from them to our eyes.
Speaker 1: -Why don’t we see a full circle?
Speaker 2: -Oh, that’s because the earth gets in the way. The lower the sun is to horizon, the more of the circle we see right at the sunset; we would see a full semicircle of the rainbow with the top of the arc 42 degree above the horizon. The higher the sun is, the smaller is the arc of the rainbow above the horizon.
Speaker 1: -Whatmakes the colours in the rainbow?
Speaker 2: -The traditional description of the rainbow is that it is made up of seven colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Actually, the rainbow is a whole continuum of colours from red to violet and even beyond the colours that the eyes can see. The colours of the rainbow arise from two basic facts: first, sunlight is made up of the whole range of colours that the eye can defect; second, light of different colour is refracted by different amounts when it passes from one medium (for example, air) into another (water or glass).
Speaker 1: - What is the rainbow’s distance?
Speaker 2: -Well, it is nearby of far away, according to where the raindrops are.
Speaker 1: -And, do you know any proverbs or saying about rainbow?
Speaker 2: -Let me think…
“Rainbow at night, shepherd’s delight.
Rainbow in morning, shepherds take warning”
“If there be a rainbow in the eve,
It will rain and leave;
But if there be a rainbow in the morrow
It will neither lend nor borrow”
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