The Muser
Physics & Physiology of Color

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The Muser

The Color Musings
Additive Mixture
Subtractive Mixture
Complementary Colors
Primary Colors
Hue, Value, Chroma
Predicting Color Mixtures
Young's 3-color Theory
A 3-color System
Land's 2-color System
James Clerk Maxwell
Thomas Young
Hermann von Helmholtz
Edwin H. Land

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Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz
Aug. 31, 1821-Sept. 8, 1894

Helmholtz's medical education, combined with his passion for physics led him to vitally important discoveries in physiology and optics.

He was one of several researchers to independently derive the law of conservation of energy.

He followed significant early investigations into human sensory systems with elemental work in sound and hearing.

In the 1850s and 1860s he published major works dealing with human optics and color vision. Though he never worked with Thomas Young , their names were attached to the classical theory of human color vision. Later in his career, he did important work in electrodynamics and electromagnetism.

© J. C. Adamson, 1997

One of the great physicists and physiologists of the nineteenth century, he investigated human vision and hearing, as well as electromagnetism, mathematics, and even meteorology.


Cahan, D., ed., Hermann von Helmholtz and the Foundations of Nineteenth Century Science (1993); Kremer, R., ed ., Letters of Helmholtz to His Wife (1990); MacAdam, David L ., Sources of Color Science (1970); Turner, R ., In the Eye's Mind (1994).