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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A

| OPTICS, IMAGE SCIENCE, AND VISION

  • Editor: Franco Gori
  • Vol. 31, Iss. 4 — Apr. 1, 2014
  • pp: A341–A349

Color-coordinate system from a 13th-century account of rainbows

Hannah E. Smithson, Philip S. Anderson, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Robert A. E. Fosbury, Giles E. M. Gasper, Philip Laven, Tom C. B. McLeish, Cecilia Panti, and Brian K. Tanner  »View Author Affiliations


JOSA A, Vol. 31, Issue 4, pp. A341-A349 (2014)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/JOSAA.31.00A341


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Abstract

We present a new analysis of Robert Grosseteste’s account of color in his treatise De iride (On the Rainbow), dating from the early 13th century. The work explores color within the 3D framework set out in Grosseteste’s De colore [see J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 29, A346 (2012)], but now links the axes of variation to observable properties of rainbows. We combine a modern understanding of the physics of rainbows and of human color perception to resolve the linguistic ambiguities of the medieval text and to interpret Grosseteste’s key terms.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(010.1290) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric optics
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color
(330.1720) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color vision
(330.1730) Vision, color, and visual optics : Colorimetry

ToC Category:
Color sensitivity and appearance

History
Original Manuscript: October 8, 2013
Revised Manuscript: January 10, 2014
Manuscript Accepted: January 13, 2014
Published: March 3, 2014

Virtual Issues
Vol. 9, Iss. 6 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Citation
Hannah E. Smithson, Philip S. Anderson, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Robert A. E. Fosbury, Giles E. M. Gasper, Philip Laven, Tom C. B. McLeish, Cecilia Panti, and Brian K. Tanner, "Color-coordinate system from a 13th-century account of rainbows," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 31, A341-A349 (2014)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/josaa/abstract.cfm?URI=josaa-31-4-A341


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References

  1. Our dating is based on C. Panti, “Robert Grosseteste and Adam of Exeter’s physics of light, remarks on the transmission, authenticity and chronology of Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula,” in Robert Grosseteste and His Intellectual Milieu, J. Flood, J. Ginther, and J. Goering, eds. (Toronto, 2013), 165–190 at p. 185, Table 1, “A Tentative Chronology of Grosseteste’s Scientific Works.” Most commentators agree on the later dating, but not on the specific date-range: A. C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science, 1100–1700 (Oxford, 1953), p. 51: 1230–1235; R. W. Southern, Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1992), p. 120: 1230–1233; R. C. Dales, “Robert Grosseteste’s Scientific Works,” Isis 52, 381–402, (1961) at 402: 1232–1235; J. McEvoy, “The chronology of Robert Grosseteste’s writings on nature and natural philosophy,” Speculum 58, 614–655 (1983), at 655: 1230–1233.
  2. H. E. Smithson, G. Dinkova-Bruun, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, and C. Panti, “A three-dimensional color space from the 13th century,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 29, A346–A352 (2012). [CrossRef]
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  14. Grosseteste uses here the Latin term lumen, not lux as he did in the De colore. Throughout his writings, Grossteste is careful to distinguish between source or essence of light (lux), and reflected light (lumen). To be faithful to this distinction, and to highlight to the modern reader that such a distinction exists in the Latin, we translate lumen here as “luminosity,” not “light.” However, our use of the word “luminosity” in this context should not be confused with the technical use of the term in modern vision science.
  15. Similarly, he uses here admixtum cum, not incorporatum as he did in the De colore, which we translate as “mixed with,” not “embodied in.”
  16. Grosseteste uses here the Latin adjective hyazinthinus, from the substantive hyacinthus, which we choose to translate as purple. The sources here are complex and are based on medieval references to gem stones and other color terminology. So, the identification with any particular color is blurred, but on-balance we believe that violet or purple with some red is an appropriate interpretation. The fact that in the (perceptual) hue circle (but not on a wavelength scale) violet, purple and red are adjacent is also worth noting.
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