The meaning and perception of colour have been observed

The meaning and perception of colour have been observed and described by many people through the history. Some examples of important personalities, whose work had a significant impact on the colour theory, are Aristotle (384-322 BCE), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Isaac Newton (1643- 1727) and Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). These four persons defined what colour is in different ways according to their knowledge and personal experiences.
Aristotle believed the colour was sent by God and it was directly related with one of the sen- sory organs, the eye. All colours are derived from the light and darkness, which he named white and black colour respectively. Also, he related the colours with the four elements of water, air, earth and fire. Generally, Aristotle approached the science of colour through his observations on senses and his beliefs in God 1.
Leonardo da Vinci pointed the importance of colours from the perspective of a painter. As stated in his work, the white colour is the combination of all colours and the black colour is the absence of colour and both are essential to the work of a painter. Moreover, he listed six primary (simple) colours in the following order: white, yellow, green, blue, red and black. Leonardo da Vinci used his knowledge in painting and his observations of the light in the world to conduct his theory on colours 2.
Isaac Newton gave a detailed explanation of the colour science from physic’s point of view. He carried out a series of experiments using prisms in order to support his beliefs about colours. Specifically, he found that white light was a compound of all the colours of the rainbow and he used the word ‘spectrum’ to describe the list of these identified colours. Unlike preexistent theo- ries of colours, Newton did not use only his intuition and observations about colours, but he used science to support his research 3.
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe has interpreted the meaning of colour in an entirely different way. He explained how the mechanism of human vision, eye, works and how our brain process the colour information. According to him, the way we see different objects depends upon the object, the lighting and our perception. His approach was different than Newton’s. While Newton explained the colour analytically, Goethe approached the ways of how colour phenomena are recognized by people. For this reason, Goethe refused some of Newton’s ideas about the colour spectrum 4.
Despite the differences between these four theories of colours, all of them had a significant impact on their contemporaries and continue to have until today. Firstly, Aristotle’s colour theories were adopted and applied for almost two thousand years. His principles were the basis of all the artistic achievements for that period of time until the Renaissance. Also, many men of medical practice, like Hippocrates, used colour science in medicine 5. Then, during the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, using his knowledge of colours, developed new painting techniques. His techniques changed the way of how artists used the colours on their paintings. Nowadays, his work has made a strong impact on the world and have influenced many people’s work 6.
Isaac Newton with his studies on the behaviour of light redefined the colour science. However, initially, his theories were not accepted straight away. Many Royal Society members disagreed with Newton and criticized his theory. They denied the existence of colour spectrum because they did not manage to replicate Newton’s experiments. Also, prisms were not commonly recognized as scientific instruments. His work had, finally, been accepted after he performed more experiments and people were able to replicate them. Today, his experiments help people to understand in a more detailed scientific way what colours are and many use Newton’s work to explain the nature and behaviour of the white light 7.
Lastly, Goethe’s work on colour science has influenced many people and has an impact on many different areas. To start with, his theory of colours has been widely adopted by the art world. Specifically, the artist named Philipp Otto Runge was interested in his colour studies. Moreover, his theories have influenced philosophers. Some philosophers took Goethe’s work and developed similar theories regarding colours. On the other hand, many scientists criticized and rejected his work 8.
These four persons worked and conducted their research under a specific scientific paradigm. Each one studied the colours using different theories and scientific approaches but all of them were work- ing on the same subject. There was a significant paradigm shift in the meaning of colour when Newton gave a more detailed scientific way to understand the colours and he changed the basic concepts and experimental practices. His theory allowed people to understand colours in an entirely different way 9.
All in all, colours have been studied by many people through the years, but the four aforementioned theories are the most significant and those who have the most important impact on the world. Aris- totle, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Johan Wolfgang von Goethe were four outstanding personalities that shaped the meaning and perception of colour.