Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen (Ed.)
SCIENCE IN COLOR
Visualizing Achromatic Knowledge
Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen (Ed.)
SCIENCE IN COLOR
Visualizing Achromatic Knowledge
Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen (Ed.)
SCIENCE IN COLOR
Visualizing Achromatic Knowledge
Rainer Hörmann, Jim Baker
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
COLOR AND ITS MEANING FOR THE SCIENCES
19 Aldo Badano
Color in Medical Images
33 Ulrike Boskamp
Color as the Other? Absence and Reappearance of Chromophobia in
51 Alexander Nagel
Research on Color Matters: Towards a Modern Archaeology of Ancient Poly-
65 Esther Ramharter
Do Signs Make Logic Colored? Tendencies Around 1900 and Earlier
81 Michael Friedman
Coloring the Fourth Dimension?
Coloring Polytopes and Complex Curves at the End of the Nineteenth Century
99 Ricardo Cedeño Montaña
Encoding Color: Between Perception and Signal
MEANINGFUL COLORS IN THE SCIENCES
117 Michael Rossi
Green Is Refreshing: Techniques, Technologies and Epistemologies of
Nineteenth-Century Color Therapies
133 Ian Lawson
Pigments, Natural History and Primary Qualities:
How Orange Became a Color
147 Daniel Baum
An Evaluation of Color Maps for Visual Data Exploration
163 Jana Moser, Philipp Meyer
The Use of Color in Geographic Maps
181 Jean-François Moreau, Raaele Pisano, Jean-Michel Correas
Historical and Scientific Note of Color Duplex Doppler Ultrasound
195 Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen
Diagrammatic Traditions: Color in Metabolic Maps
219 Dominique Grisard
Pink and Blue Science. A Gender History of Color in Psychology
237 Image Credits
ree events will illustrate what motivated this volume: At a conference on the
Meaning of Color in Berlin in July , a researcher talked about her ethnographic
ﬁeld work in geobiology during a trip to a tropic island. What might have sounded
like a fancy holiday destination was in fact a hostile environment to most living
things, seeing that it provided no fresh water or shelter from sun. She was there
to observe and interact with geobiologists who study the microbial communities
that build dense layers in swamps and exist in only a few regions of the world. She
watched the geobiologists measure the density of layers and record colors. ey
also took photographs as documentary evidence. e colors of the layers were key
to age and composition. During the conference on the Meaning of Color in Berlin,
someone in the audience asked, “So what kind of Munsell-like color scale do they
[the geobiologists] use to give the colors their correct and speciﬁc names?” To which
the ethnographer replied, “ere is no such thing. at is tacit knowledge.” Nobody
said a word. e Finnish expert on the color green, who had asked the question,
looked incredulous. e digital media researcher next to him raised his hand: “So
with what kind of standardized camera technology do they take their photos?” e
ethnographer: “Um, with their own smartphones, mostly.”
e second example concerns diagrams. In an interview, the Harvard professor
of Biochemistry Alain Viel was asked about his textbook in the making: “How do
you decide which kind of blue to choose for these acid-endings in your diagram?”
Viel: “Oh, I like this blue!“.¹ he answered pointing at the blue arrows in a diagram
on his monitor. Similarly, in an interview, biochemist Gerhard Michal, author of
the most widespread biochemical map Biochemical Pathways, ﬁrst produced in ,
told me about the choice of colors in his diagram: “I asked the printer to show me
the blues he most liked and of these we picked the nicest blue.”²
e third case is from the realm of medicine. Aldo Badano, one of the authors
in this volume, is a researcher at the Food and Drug Administration in the United
States involved in evaluating the safety of monitors used in clinical contexts. At
a conference on color in Berlin in , he presented one of the ﬁrst studies to
investigate the strongly held belief within the medical ﬁeld that color in images
1 Alain Viel: Interview, transcript: Cambridge, PA, 2018.
2 Gerhard Michal: Interview, transcript: Munich, 2018.
makes them easier to read. ere had been no study thus far to verify the diagnostic
performance of medical practitioners including cardiologists and radiologists in
relation to the color scale of the monitor used.
e reason why, in the ﬁrst case, the expert on green and the expert on digital
visual technology were struck by the procedure used during the expedition in geobi-
ology was the absence of color standardization. On the one hand, we know from the
history of science that starting in the seventeenth and extending well into the twenti-
eth century early scientists, particularly in ﬁelds such as botany, zoology, geology and
meteorology, used color cards for standardization, which helped to measure, transfer
and communicate color impressions. Archaeologist Alexander Nagel, also an author
in this volume, propagates the use of Munsell’s color charts (developed at the begin-
ning of the twentieth century by the painter and art professor),³ often used to describe
soil in geology and archaeology, to describe paintings on antique artifacts. On the
other hand, dierent digital (and analog) camera technologies and screens capture,
store and display colors dierently. ey achieve dierent results as regards to hue,
saturation and value or lightness – terms which computer graphics researchers since
the s have used to represent perceptual color models such as Munsell’s.
e diagrams mentioned in the second example were used in the biochemistry
textbooks and wall charts sold until the end of the twentieth century to teachers
and students in disciplines ranging from chemistry to medicine. Today, they have
been replaced by online versions with similar symbolic and aesthetic features. We
learn from the literature that their use in an educational context raises perceptual,
pedagogic and psychological questions. What we do not learn from the literature
3 Albert H. Munsell: Atlas of the Munsell Color System, Boston: Wadsworth, Howland & Co., Inc, 1915;
Albert H. Munsell: A Color Notation, Boston: G. H. Ellis Co, 1905.
4 Edward R. Landa, Mark D. Fairchild: Charting Color from the Eye of the Beholder. In: American
Scientist, 93 (5), 2005, pp. 436–443; Steven K. Shevell: The Science of Color, Oxford: Elsevier Science
& Technology, 2003; Michael W. Schwarz, William B. Cowan, John C. Beatty: An Experimental Com-
parison of RGB, YIQ, LAB, HSV, and Opponent Color Models. In: ACM Transactions on Graphics, 6
(2), 1987, pp. 123–158; John Kender: Saturation, Hue and Normalized Color: Calculation, Digitization
Effects, and Use, Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University, Computer Science Department, 1976.
Marissa Harle, Marcy Towns: A Review of Spatial Ability Literature, Its Connection to Chemistry, and
Implications for Instruction. In:
Journa l of Chemi cal Education,
88 ( 3), 201 0, pp. 3 51–36 0; Davi d Kaiser:
Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics
, Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2009; Michelle Patrick Cook: Visual Representations in Science Education: e Inﬂu-
ence of Prior Knowledge and Cognitive Load eory on Instructional Design Principles. In:
90 (6), 2006, pp. 1073–1091; Hsin-Kai Wu, Priti Shah: Exploring Visuospatial inking in
Chemistry Learning. In:
88 (3), 2004, pp. 465–492; Jorge Trindade, Carlos Fiolhais,
Leandro Almeida: Science Learning in Virtual Environ ments: A Descriptive Study. In:
of Educational Technology,
33 (4), 2002, pp. 471–488; James H. Mathewson: Visual-Spatial inking:
An Aspect of Science Overlooked by Educators. In:
, 83 (1), 1999, pp. 33–54.
is information on the color choices in these diagrams, especially regarding intercul-
tural contexts. is also concerns possible intercultural dierences in reading the
dierent colors in dierent maps.
In the last case, the results of the study by Badano et al. on monochrome
images on monitors (which are in grayscale mode) versus polychrome monitors
in the medical context showed that people trained on monochrome monitors had
diculty interpreting polychrome images and vice versa. is, they were able to
show, inﬂuences performance in the detection and demarcation of lesions by the
study participants. Yet, there was no knowledge of the relevance of color for the
physicians’ performance in the respective institutions.
To conclude, on the one hand, we have reasons to believe that most natural
scientists encounter color and need to employ color in their empirical, technical and
educational work and would beneﬁt from systematic studies of the (history) of the
use of color in images. As detailed below, on the other hand, the status of research
in the social sciences relating to science and technology, as well as in history and
philosophy of science and technology, seems to reﬂect the generally low awareness
of the relevance of color in the sciences and technology. Where theoretical reﬂec-
tions on scientiﬁc images have been undertaken, the history of science has been
the main ﬁeld producing individual studies on color. We can divide these studies
into the history of the ontology of color, which is most often the history of phys-
ics, studies on the history of color charts for standardization in the sciences and
technology, studies that analyze the history of color as material substance, and
those that relate mimetic color use to reproduce the living aspect of zoological or
botanical objects, as well as the mimetic use of color in other disciplines such as
6 E. g. Klaus Hentschel: Verengte Sichtweise. Folgen der Newtonschen Optik für die Farbwahrneh-
mung bis ins 19. Jahrhundert. In: Farbstrategien. Bildwelten des Wissens, 4.1, Berlin, Boston: de
Gruyter, 2006; and in M. Bushart, Friedrich Steinle: Colour Histories, Science, Art, and Technology
in the 17th and 18th Centuries, Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2015; T. Baker, S. Dupré, S. Kusukawa,
K. Leonhard: Early Modern Color Worlds. In: Early Science and Medicine, 20 (4-6), 2015, pp. 289–591.
7 See e. g. André Karliczek: Zur Herausbildung von Farbstandards in den frühen Wissenschaften. In:
Fer rum, 90 (Nachrichtenblatt der Eisenbibliothek), 2018, pp. 36–49; A. Temkin, B. Fer, M. Ho: Color
Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, e Museum of Modern Art, 2008; Rolf Kuehni, Andreas
Schwarz: Color o rdered: a surv ey of c olor s ystems from an tiqui ty to t he pres ent. Oxford: Oxford University
8 See e. g. Jan Altmann: Färbung, Farbgestaltung und früher Farbdruck am Ende der Naturgeschichte.
In: Farbstrategien (s. fn. 6), pp. 69–77; Alexandre Métraux: Farbstochemie, Farbexperimente und
die französische Malerei. In: Farbstrategien (s. fn. 6), pp. 61–68.
9 As in Kärin Nickelsen: e Challenge of Colour: Eighteenth-Century Botanists and the Hand-co-
louring of Illustrations. In: Annals of Science, 63 (1), 2006, pp. 3–23.
geology, meteorology or medicine.¹ Appreciating all these groundbreaking works
on color in science, authors in this volume deal with the meaning of color: what does
it mean in speciﬁc ﬁelds of medicine, philosophy or to a speciﬁc scientiﬁc discipline
to use or not to use color? And to focus on the other meaning of meaning: what
do speciﬁc colors mean in speciﬁc (scientiﬁc) contexts? And how do they come to
acquire these meanings?
How the book is structured
e volume is divided in two parts in accordance with the two meanings of meaning
e ﬁrst half of the articles deals with “meaning” in the sense of relevance
or irrelevance, with the simultaneous use and neglect of color in the sciences, as
something generally disapproved or something useful – as an object to reﬂect on
in the sciences and medicine themselves. Some of them take David Batchelor’s
claim of a “Western chromophobia”¹¹ from antiquity to modernity as a point of
departure, mainly to contradict the coarseness of this claim and to show the complex
contradictions of color use and neglect in dierent countries, times and contexts.
Still, reading all the contributions together, it did seem in our discussions that in
speciﬁc historic contexts and moments, in times of backlash after phases of more
emancipatory democratic social change, chromophobia became part of racialized
and gendered discourses that re-aligned politics, sciences and arts. is is at least
what we suggest as a ﬁeld of research that requires further study.
is ﬁrst group of articles begins with the contribution by Aldo Badano, whose
article shows that not to reﬂect on the use of color in the sciences and medicine
may become in practice, dramatically enough, a question of life and death. Ulrike
Boskamp, Alexander Nagel and Esther Ramharter follow with problematizations
and contextualizations of Batchelor’s claim. ey distinguish dierent historic
moments, disciplines and uses of color. Michael Friedman demonstrates a ﬁeld
of chromophilia: the use of color on mathematical models. We close the ﬁrst half
with Ricardo Cedeño Montaña’s study, which focuses on the history of studies on
the visual apparatus and color perception. It is the bridge to the second group of
10 See e. g. in Baker et al. (s. fn. 6), pp. 289–591; Klaus Hentschel: Visual Cultures in Science and Tech-
nology: A Comparative History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014; Farbstrategien (s. fn. 6) ; on
dierent roles of colour in relation to form in the scientiﬁc image see Horst Bredekamp, Vera Dün-
kel, Birgit Schneider (eds.): e technical image: a history of styles in scientiﬁc imagery. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2019..
11 David Batchelor: Chromophobia, London: Reaktion books, 2000.
articles which focus on the meaning of color in the sense of color being a sym-
bol of something else, and on speciﬁc colors and their connotations – i. e., their
respective cultural meaning or symbolism. Michael Rossi makes a start with the
history of knowledge generation on the perception of green. Ian Lawson shows how
the concept of primary colors with some delay led to the acceptance of orange in the
color terminology in Europe. His contribution is followed by four articles which all
study the meaning of color in various sorts of maps: Daniel Baum on color maps
as such; Jana Moser and Philipp Meyer on geographic maps; Jean-François Moreau,
Jean-Michel Correas and Raaele Pisano on the medical imaging technique in Color
Doppler Ultrasound (which are topographical maps, too), and ﬁnally, Bettina Bock
von Wülﬁngen on metabolic maps. Dominique Grisard closes with the history of
psychological studies, which result in naturalizing the gendered conception of pink.
e idea of claiming speciﬁc meanings and connotations of color as natural and
universal is a theme that runs through all the texts. ey demonstrate the opposite:
connotations of color change synchronically and diachronically; they are bound
into the contexts they appear in.
“e meaning of color” in almost all the contributions signiﬁes cultural
connotation but often also primarily refers to questions about values – social,
cultural, sometimes supposed technical values that turn out to be cultur-
al values shaping color use (e. g., in Ricardo Cedeño Montaña’s case, there
are contingent reasons why color use is understood as advantageous in some
cases or nonsense in others). Standardization and the lack thereof and the his-
toric moment in which it appeared (if it indeed did so) as well as the times-
cale in the shift of values reappear as problems in most of the contributions.
e articles in this volume deal with a broad range of historic and modern color uses
and types. While those articles dealing with late modern forms of visualizations
(mostly on screens) work with the opposition of true versus pseudo color, for others
the distinction of mimetic and symbolic color use is in the foreground.
is volume makes use of the existing rich studies on the history of color in
science and tries to pave the way for more studies on the meaning of color. As pre-
viously stated, further work on historically contingent moments of chromophobia
and chromophilia would be worthwhile. Another suggestion for further research
resulting from our discussion is global history and transculturalism in studies on
color use. Almost all articles in our compilation analyze the uses of color in scientiﬁc
contexts of – to put it bluntly – the global North-West. Alexander Nagel’s study is on
descriptions of color use in architecture in the Near East but focuses on its reception
by German and English scientists; Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen’s study compares
German and Japanese metabolic maps – still, we are far from provincializing Europe
and the United States. Nevertheless, this volume’s subject raises questions and
issues that can be investigated in and across other contexts, and presents a ﬁrst
harvest of results concerning the way scientiﬁc cultures use, adopt and think about
(or rather choose to ignore) colors.
Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen
COLOR AND ITS MEANING FOR THE SCIENCES
Color in Medical Images
Despite its widespread use in the interpretation of medical images, color is handled
primarily in an ad-hoc manner due to the lack of standard approaches for opti-
mal visualization. e variability introduced by varying color treatments leads to
reproducibility concerns in quantitative image evaluation and low inter-observer
agreement possibly leading to inconsistent diagnostic decisions with a negative
impact on patient treatment and prognosis. Medical imaging techniques that rely on
pseudo-color presentation include perfusion techniques, diusion-weighted mag-
netic resonance and nuclear imaging. Other modalities use absolute color trans-
fer including medical photography and the emerging ﬁeld of digital whole-slide
imaging and digital pathology. Some have suggested that speciﬁc color scales for
non-contrast computed tomography of arterial function improve diagnostic conﬁ-
dence, diagnostic accuracy and inter-observer agreement with respect to a grayscale
presentation. Moreover, recent research using synthetic and patient images in labo-
ratory and clinical settings indicates that beneﬁts from using color scales is modality
dependent and is aected by reader training and by variations in the training and
interpretation practices across geographical regions and across schools and health
institutions. What is the reason color is used in medical imaging? Is it to improve
the performance of the clinician or rather to visualize data that would otherwise
be imperceptible? In either scenario, one can also ask if it is at all possible to deﬁne
meaning within the context of a medical and engineering framework. In this chap-
ter, we discuss current understandings and utilization of color in medical imaging
applications and present a perspective for the abovementioned questions from the
viewpoint of the utility of color images for the advancement of human well-being.
e meaning of color in medical imaging can be analyzed within the context of
the scientiﬁc and technical advancements in the ﬁeld, the processes that lead to
their introduction into clinical practice and the learning aspects that are inherent
with any new technology. For more than a century, radiological images have been
interpreted using grayscale or monochromatic representations primarily driven by
traditional single-phosphor radiographic ﬁlm media. e visualization of imag-
es acquired and displayed using radiographic ﬁlm were consistent with the mea-
surement of the attenuation of x-rays through body parts revealing interior details
Color as the Other?
Absence and Reappearance of Chromophobia in Eighteenth-Century France
“I feel the color in my cheeks rising again.
I must be the color of e Communist Manifesto.”¹
In E. L. James’s popular novel Fifty Sha des of Grey (), this is the physical reaction
that Anastasia Steele, the female protagonist, shows at her second meeting with
Christian Grey. In accordance with his colorless name, he features gray eyes, gray
suits, white oce furniture. e book’s original title clearly references this “male”
side of the story (. ).
Grey embodies what David Batchelor has very appropriately named “chro-
mophobia.” Handsome, rich, lonely, neurotically self-controlled, he wishes to control
his surroundings, derives sexual pleasure from dominance over his partner, and
he never blushes. In the novel, color is reserved for the female’s skin, which turns
various shades of red caused by the male, either when she blushes or when she is
beaten. e book’s highly conventional setup of male domination and female sub-
ordination, an unambiguous hierarchy that is sexually played out in soft porn, uses
and reconﬁrms a clear binarism of gender with great public success at a historical
moment in which this binarism is being very seriously contested. It includes what
the art historian Abigail Solomon-Godeau, referring to images, has called a “staging
of the relationships of dominance and submission, authority and subordination,
deeply inscribed into the structures of patriarchy and phallogocentrism.”² Color
and its marked absence play roles in this staging by transmitting their semantics
to the subjects they are assigned to.
Batchelor has dedicated his book Chromophobia to this binary, hierarchic rela-
tionship. He proposes that the case of color and its subordination “is bound up
with the fate of Western culture,”³ and accordingly presents the subjugation of a
triad of color, the female and a conglomerate of matter, body and nature under its
1 E. L. James: Fifty Shades of Grey, London: Arrow Books, 2012, p. 28. I thank Annette Kranen for her
critical reading of this article.
2 Abigail Solomon-Godeau: Ist Endymion schwul? Spannungsgeladene Fragen zwischen Feminismus,
Gay und Queer Studies. In: Mechthild Fend, Marianne Koos (eds.): Männlichkeit im Blick. Visuelle
Inszenierungen in der Kunst seit der frühen Neuzeit, Cologne: Böhlau, 2004, p. 34.
3 David Batchelor, Chromophobia, London: Reaktion Books, 2000, p. 22.
Research on Color Matters: Towards a Modern Archaeology
of Ancient Polychromies
e current excitement for digital polychrome reconstructions of ancient mon-
uments corresponds to new energies and investments made in advanced image
technologies and the development of innovative computer graphic tools in the twen-
ty-ﬁrst century. Until about a generation ago, enthusiastic explorers used tradition-
al tools to construct how they believed the polychrome past of the ancient world
looked like. Occasionally, these physical constructions generated harsh debate, yet
the reasons for the debates were complex and in general not limited to what the Brit-
ish art historian David Batchelor has deﬁned as Chromophobia.¹ Physical construc
tions such as those shown in the contemporary traveling exhibition Bunte Götter are
still important as we practice thinking more about the complex technologies of paint
application and the materials used. ough academics understand that pre-modern
sculptures and monuments were brightly painted, every new generation will need to
be educated about this one aspect of the past. e goal of this article is to illuminate
and contextualize some aspects of the complex history of research, documentation
and debate on past polychromies, with particular reference to monuments excavat-
ed in Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia. As my article will show, documenting and
defending color has never been an easy task. Beginning with a brief introduction
on systems of documenting color in archaeological ceramics, I will introduce a cast
of key players and individuals involved in the documentation, “measuring” and
translation of hues and colors from the ﬁeld to the museum and beyond, all invested
in the early business of reconstructing sculptural painting (polychromies) in the
nineteenth century. I will also discuss ways how these participants’ observations
and documentation were acknowledged and distributed in European salons and
1 David Batchelor, Chromophobia, London: Reaktion Books, 2000.
2 I confess that this is a very Western biased approach. I mainly question how European scientists
thought and wrote about ancient polychromies in the Middle East. I recognize the important new
contributions made on antiquarians researching colors in the Islamic world in recent years: Sheila
Blair, Jonathan Bloom (eds.): And Diverse are their Hues. Color in Islamic Art and Culture, New Haven;
CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2011.
Do Signs Make Logic Colored?
Tendencies Around 1900 and Earlier
Color plays a role in philosophy and in logic as well: What meaning does color have
for logic, and has this changed over time? David Batchelor, in his book Chromopho-
bia,¹ diagnoses a repression of color in Western culture because color has been con-
sidered a permanent threat, in particular to rationality. With respect to the relation
of the two dichotomies colors/black-and-white and male/female, Ulrike Boskamp
has developed a more dierentiated view in her contribution to this collection. Does
logic have its own privileged relationship with color, or is this connection merely
a special case of the (perhaps hostile) relationship between color and rationality?
e main emphasis of this paper, however, is on the role that (written) signs play in
the relation between color and logic.
Rationality and logic
ere has been a close connection between rationality and logic since antiqui-
ty, with many parallel discussions surrounding this subject: scholars have asked
whether there is one universal rationality or many rationalities, and monism versus
pluralism has appeared as a topic of ongoing debates in logic. Authors queried
whether the ﬁeld of psychology instead of philosophy is the appropriate place for
both studies of rationality and of logic. e respective possibility to include con-
tradictions is a matter that has bothered very dierent philosophers. And although
these issues have – at least partially – been discussed independently for the two
dierent concepts, rationality and logic, the connection between them is ultimately
According to perhaps the most commonly held conception of the relationship
between logic and rationality, logic is viewed as a part of rationality. One early exam-
ple of the development of such a conception comes from Aristotle, who held that
logic, i. e., syllogistics or dialectic, is how we reason correctly. But since reasoning
requires a starting point, something must be responsible for the beginning of this
process. is is the intellect (νο~
υς/nous).² Hence, intellect and reasoning combine
to make what one might term “rationality.” What this understanding of rationality
1 David Batchelor: Chromophobia, London: Reaction Books, 2000.
2 See Aristotle: Analytica Posteriora 100 b, 5–17.
Ricardo Cedeño Montaña
Encoding Color: Between Perception and Signal
Encoding schemes for producing, storing, and transmitting color information in
electronic media are based on the additive mixture of red, green, and blue lights, a
three-color principle that originated in nineteenth-century physiological studies of
vision. During the twentieth century this principle was ﬁrst standardized and then
implemented in several technical media. Similar to many other aspects of media
technologies, over the past century there has been a standardizing trend to order,
regulate and stabilize the production of color sensations with electronic media. e
standardization of color has been an essential part for the creation of ever more
precise and predictable sensors, displays and encoding schemes.
Two images open this chapter (. ). Both are magniﬁcations of the input and
output hardware of electronic visual systems where the three-color principle has
been implemented. Both are standard pieces used in consumer imaging devices.
e micrograph on the left corresponds to the charge-coupled device image sensor
installed in a common webcam. e image on the right is a macro picture of an
in-plane-switching liquid-crystal display. e input is a rectangular grid of circular
photodiodes and the output is an arrangement of chevron-patterned electrodes.
ere are only red, green, and blue elements, but their distributions dier. Half of
the photodiodes on the image sensor are green, whereas on the display the colors
of the electrodes are evenly distributed.
e nature of color has been studied in history, science and philosophy of
color. However, it is only with the recent material turn that focuses on the media
technologies as the concrete link between science, industry and culture that the
question of color in electronic media has been addressed by media history.¹ is
chapter describes how a certain interplay of ideas, instruments, blueprints and
speciﬁcations gave birth to the trichromatic theory and its implementation in elec-
tronic media. is media history focuses on the works and agreements among a
network of scientists and technicians that after explaining this human sensation as
the mixture of three primary stimuli, fostered a series of technical developments
to homogenize the color sensations produced by electronic media. From sensing
device to transmission channel, electronic color is a media operation that exploits
1 Susan Murray: Bright Signals: A History of Color Television, Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.
MEANINGFUL COLORS IN THE SCIENCES
Green Is Refreshing: Techniques, Technologies and
Epistemologies of Nineteenth-Century Color Therapies
In an early lecture of , philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce reached for a
seemingly obscure example in order to explain how things became perceivable to
conscious beings. It was distinctness or distinction, Peirce told his audience, that
rendered things sensible. In order to be perceived as a thing (rather than nothing,
or everything), an entity – a chemical, an object, a person, a thought, an idea, a
sensation – had to be distinguishable from that which it was not. By way of example,
Peirce directed his audience’s attention to an ostensibly elementary sense percep-
tion – that of color. “ere is a gentleman in England,” he wrote, “who has shown
by an ingenious research that everything appears green to him. Green however, is
not a refreshing color to him, because it is undistinguished.”¹
On ﬁrst pass, the point seems conventional, and the example arbitrary. To see
something as a thing itself, it must appear distinct from other things. If all things
appear to be green (for instance), then green has no meaning as a descriptor – it is
indistinct because it describes everything indiscriminately. As with green, so too
with all colors, and, indeed, all things in the world. In order to be identiﬁable as
something, a thing (a color, an object, an idea) must be not-other-things.
On closer reﬂection, however, one is struck by the strangely speciﬁc wording
Peirce uses. It is not simply that green is recognizable when distinguished from
other colors. Rather, green is refreshing – in its distinctness, it has eects upon the
human body, and these eects are absent when green is indistinct. It’s a striking
notion, made all the more striking by the oandedness with which Peirce oers
it. Peirce assumes that his audience would be familiar with the fact that green is
“refreshing.” Further still, with his mention of the “ingenious research” of “a gentle-
man in England,” he signals his familiarity with scientiﬁc work on color perception:
the “gentleman” is John Dalton, a celebrated chemist famous for writing about his
own color blindness.²
1 Charles Sanders Peirce: Views of Chemistry, Sketched for Young Ladies. In: Max Harold Fisch, Peirce
Edition Project (eds.): Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition, Vol. 1, Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1982, p. 50.
2 Peirce oversimpliﬁed the matter. Dalton did not write that everything appeared green to him. Rather,
he had diculty distinguishing reds, purples, oranges and pinks from dierent shades of green.
Pigments, Natural History and Primary Qualities:
How Orange Became a Color
A physiological table of colors
In , the naturalist, watercolorist, translator and philosopher Richard Waller
(† ) published a “Physiological Table of Colors.”¹ It was an innovative moment
in the history of color printing. He had designed a set of glass pipes stopped with
spring-loaded plugs, to be ﬁlled with colors. When the plugs were moved aside “the
color came down so as to make convenient round spots on the paper” (. ).² As
long as the weights of the pigments in the pipes were kept constant, Waller reasoned,
dierent versions of the table would be identical. Each round spot was labelled
with Latin, Greek, French and English names, and the table would thus stabilize
nomenclature for these speciﬁc shades of color. A naturalist could describe a young
plant’s “sea green” or “vitreus” leaves and a reader with the same catalogue in front of
them would understand the object, Waller hoped, “with less ambiguity, I think, than
is usual: A Standard of colors being yet a thing wanting in Philosophy.”³
is table lies at the intersection of natural history, linguistics, painting and philos-
ophy, and represents Waller’s particular way of thinking about color. In this paper I
draw connections between this table and contemporary seventeenth-century ideas
about primary colors. I argue that Waller’s table visualizes color mixing in a way
that gives us an insight into the history of this idea, and of one secondary color
particularly: orange. Orange is conspicuous by its absence in Waller’s table, and in
other seventeenth-century color theories. Indeed, originally referring to the fruit, the
emergence of the word “orange” as a color term has been dated to roughly this time,
1 Richard Waller: A Catalogue of Simple and Mixt Colours, with a Specimen of Each Color Preﬁxt to
Its Proper Name. In: Philosophical Transactions, 16, 1686–1692, pp. 24–32. For more on the history
of the table and its contents, see Sachiko Kusukawa: Richard Waller’s Table of Colors (1686). In:
Magdalena Bushart, Friedrich Steinle (eds.): Color Histories, Science, Art, and Technology in the 17th
and 18th Centuries, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 3–24.
2 omas Birch: The History of the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural Knowledge, vol. 4,
London: A. Millar, 1756–1757, p. 480. As far as I know, there are three surviving colored copies, one
each in the Trinity College and Cambridge University libraries in Cambridge, England, and one in
the Smithsonian Museum, USA.
3 Waller (s. fn. 1), p. 25. e idea of using color reference chips in scientiﬁc ﬁeldwork is familiar to us
now through the Munsell Color System. Waller belongs to its ancestors. For Munsell see e. g. Rolf G.
Kuehni: e Early Development of the Munsell System. In: Color Research and Application, 27, 2002,
An Evaluation of Color Maps for Visual Data Exploration
Color is often used in data visualization as an additional cue to support the under-
standing of the data being visualized. However, care needs to be taken when apply-
ing color since it inﬂuences our visual perception enormously. Over the past sixty
years, the use of color in data visualization – a subﬁeld of computer science – has
been studied in great detail. is has led to many generally accepted rules for the
use of color. An important aspect when using color is the task to be carried out or the
goal to be achieved. A dierent task may lead to dierent requirements for the usage
of color. When feature detection is the main goal, for example, other color schemes
may be more appropriate than those that would be beneﬁcial for an overview of the
data. e usability of color is further restricted when three-dimensional (D) objects
are the target of the visualization. In this case, for example, luminance should be
avoided to represent dierences in the data that is visualized on the surface of the
D object because the luminance parameter is already required to better accentuate
the shape of the object (see the last example in this article). Hence, in order to use
color most eectively, many considerations need to be made. In this article, we
focus on visualizing continuous scalar-valued data. Such data is usually depicted
with the help of color maps that assign to each scalar value a single color. e term
“color map” originally referred to a color lookup table that was used in computer
graphics to map scalar values to a speciﬁc color to be depicted on the computer
screen.¹ While this article focusses on continuous color maps, dierent aspects of
color for data visualization are considered in other articles of this volume. Also
note that the term “color map” might be used dierently throughout this volume
(see, for example, the article by Jana Moser and Philipp Meyer, and the article by
Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen).
Let us consider a ﬁrst example. e data depicted in is a three-di-
mensional (D) image of a marine sediment core containing coral and sea shell
fragments. is D image was acquired using computed tomography (CT). e D
visualizations depicted in show the same cross-section of this CT image.
1 Kenn eth R. Sloan Jr., Christ opher M. B rown: Color Ma p Techn iques. In: Computer Graphics and Image
Processing, 10, 1979, pp. 297–317; Garland Stern: SoftCel – An application of raster scan graphics
to conventional cel animation. In: ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics, 13, 1979.
Jana Moser, Philipp Meyer
The Use of Color in Geographic Maps1
In geographic mapmaking, i. e., regarding maps that rely on geographic space and
display a speciﬁc space-related content, color is only one minor but very eective
aspect to design a map and its content. Today’s mapmakers – especially in Europe –
still rely on the development of Bertin’s graphical variables of the s (. ), with
additions by MacEachren in the s.² Re ga rd i ng co lo r u s ag e i n m a ps , i t i s im po r tant
to distinguish between hue, value and luminance³ as well as to consider the output
medium for a map to use the appropriate color system (RGB, CMYK). It is possible
to produce maps in grayscale, i. e., without color. In fact, if not handcolored after-
wards, almost every printed map was colorless until the end of the eighteenth century
for printing reasons alone. Today, grayscale maps are mostly used for economic rea-
sons. On the other hand, monochrome black-and-white mapping was also intention-
ally used, especially in propaganda maps in the ﬁrst half of the twentieth century.
Color is nonetheless one of the most impressive map features. Color can be
associative, selective or ordering. It can support the reader in obtaining informa-
tion at ﬁrst sight. Color can raise readability and eciency in map interpretation.
It is able to bring order and clarity into the confusion of lines and names. Color
emphasizes or summarizes, distinguishes, highlights or balances speciﬁc spatial
areas or given content. In addition, one of the main arguments for using color in
maps is aesthetics, whereby colorizing a map means creating a harmonic and vivid
image. For this reason, many of the printed maps were colored by hand until the
nineteenth century. Today, color can be intentionally chosen by a cartographer or
predeﬁned by the software – e. g., ColorBrewer, GIS software, web-mapping tools.
1 is paper was funded by DFG: SFB 1199 “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition.”
2 Jacques Bertin: Sémiologie Graphique: Les Diagrammes, les Réseaux, les Cartes, Paris: Gauthier-Villars,
1967; Alan M. MacEachren: Some Truth with Maps: A Primer on Symbolization and Design, Washington,
DC: Assoc. of American Geographers, 1994, p. 17.
3 Data Visualization depends on the level of measurement, which can be numerical (absolute or
relative), nominal or ordinal.
4 See Cedeño Montaña in this volume.
5 Color has always played an important role in the history of cartography. us, the absence of color in
maps cannot be explained with chromophobia (see Boskamp in this volume). In fact, cartographers
tend more to the horror vacui and are afraid of too much white space.
6 Hermann Haack: Schriften zur Kartographie, ed. by Werner Horn, Gotha/Leipzig: VEB Hermann
Haack, 1972, p. 48.
7 http://colorbrewer2.org, acc. 07–26–2018; see also Baum in this volume.
Jean-François Moreau, Raaele Pisano, Jean-Michel Correas
Historical and Scientiﬁc Note of Color Duplex Doppler
Ultrasound and Imaging
“It has been shown by reason and experiment that blood by the beat of the
ventricles ﬂows through the lungs and heart and is pumped to the whole body.”
e intellectual history of imaging as presented in the following article is a dialogue
between historical foundations of science and medical frameworks. e aim of the
authors is to explain how the use of colors can improve most recent medical visual-
ization techniques, either by bringing true additional medical information such as
for color Doppler ultrasound, or by providing colorizations of the computed medical
imaging. While the latter is still aesthetic or educational, we consider the colors in
the Doppler image to be phenomenological.
To explain this dierence, we will go back to the interconnections between
the history of printing and the history of anatomy. At the time when progress in
international physiology was developing, printing progressed in Germany under
the contradictory inﬂuences of Newton and Goethe.
Contemporary printers, even working with oset, used four-color chromolithog-
raphy (blue, red, yellow and black) to colorize the drawings, especially in anatomy
books (e. g., Jean Marc Bourgery’s treatise). Under the inﬂuence of Malpighi, the
oxygenated aortic blood was colored in red, the cava venous system in blue, the lym-
phatic system in purple or white, the nerves in yellow. is was due to the natural
dierence in darkness of both the arterial and the venous bloods of live mammals.
In contrast, color Doppler real–time digital ultrasound is the only medical
imaging technique using blue and red coding for cardiovascular hemodynamics
even though this doesn’t rely on oxygen blood saturation. e ultrasonic probe
recollecting the echoic waves plays the role of the heart. In red the wave ﬁgures
the blood ﬂow that is coming towards the probe, while the blue wave is travelling
1 Harvey William Harvey: Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus. Facsimile,
Translation and edited by Chauncey D. Leake, Springﬁeld: Charles C. omas, (1628) 1928, XIV,
(p. 58) p. 103.
Bettina Bock von Wülﬁngen
Diagrammatic Traditions: Color in Metabolic Maps
Within a ﬁne black frame of approximately : width to height, the image above
(. ) shows a large number of well-ordered ﬁne parallel vertical and horizontal
lines against a white background, connected to one another by half-circular curves,
sometimes also by circles and ovals. Where they run parallel, these lines are pep-
pered with dots at symmetrical altitudes. All lines are depicted in eleven dierent
soft pastel and brilliant colors, which dominate speciﬁc areas of the drawing; few
additional lines are in gray. Salient are two groups of thirteen parallel vertical lines
in a bluish-green in the left center. eir design is reminiscent of abstract ﬂoral art
deco graphics. Apart from the circular forms that build connections between lines,
all lines are either strictly vertical or strictly horizontal (in a ninety degree to one
another). While the speciﬁc areas of the map appear in a speciﬁc color, the respective
color is repeated in an oval nametag to the respective zone of the graphic that bears
the name (written in white against the colorful background) of a metabolic pathway
(e. g., on the violet tag: “Energy Metabolism”). In the very center, a long vertical
line ending in a large circle in the lower part of the center depicted in violet-blue
captures one’s attention, bearing the tag “Carbohydrate Metabolism,” and on the top
1: The metabolic map Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes.
Pink and Blue Science
A Gender History of Color in Psychology
Why do girls love pink? British neuropsychologists Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling
believe evolutionary adaptation to be the answer.¹ eir highly publicized
study traced women and girls’ preference for pink and reddish tones back to the
gender-speciﬁc division of labor in prehistoric times. As gatherers, women had
trained their eyes to recognize berries as eciently as possible. Accordingly, they
argue that the attraction which pink is said to have on girls nowadays has to do
with the evolutionary advantage that enabled women to more easily recognize the
reddish colors of berries and thus ensured the survival of prehistoric humans.
Pink is arguably one of the most symbolically charged colors today. Over the
course of the mid to late twentieth century, pink has become synonymous with girlie
femininity and (eeminate) homosexuality. As I will show in this article, pink’s gen-
der and sexual symbolism has undergone a process of naturalization, so much so
in fact that it has come to shape scientiﬁc research. My contribution focuses on the
appearance of pink in the range of colors studied by psychologists. It will address
the history of color in psychology in terms of the gradual appearance of the color
pink. In the process, the relation between the absence of pink and the presence
of other colors, which are attributed speciﬁc racialized, gendered meanings, will
function as an insightful backdrop. ese ﬁndings will allow me to show how an
epistemological interest in pink and blue coincided with gender dierences in early
childhood prompting this view to become central to the study of color.
My focus will lie on the continuity of evolutionary meta-narratives in color
psychology and in the central epistemological position of the child in these studies.
I use the term meta-narrative to denote the epistemologies and stories psycholo-
gists draw on to make results meaningful, socially relevant even, results which by
themselves would be quite limited in scope and reach. I will reﬂect on the ways in
which science is shaped by processes of naturalization of racialized and gendered
binaries. Ultimately, my contribution will make clear that pink and blue do not only
color the consumer culture of today’s children, they also play a signiﬁcant part in
scientiﬁcally explaining childhood gender dierences.
1 Anya C. Hurlbert, Yazhu Ling: Biological Components of Sex Dierences in Color Preference. In:
Current Biology, 17 (16), R623-R625.
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Aldo Badano, Ph."D.
Division of Imaging, Diagnostics, and Software Reliability, Oce of Science and Engineering Laboratories,
Center for Devices and Radiological Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Dr. Daniel Baum
Zuse Institute Berlin
PD"Dr. Bettina Bock von Wülfingen
Institute for Cultural History and Theory, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Dr. Ulrike Boskamp
Institute for Art History, Free University Berlin
Dr. Ricardo Cedeño Montaña
Facultad de Comunicaciones, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
Prof."Dr. Jean-Michel Correas
Necker University Hospital, Paris, France
Dr. Michael Friedman
Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity. Image Space Material, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Dr. Dominique Grisard
Swiss Center for Social Research, University of Basel
Ian Lawson, Ph."D.
Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig
Prof."Dr. Jean-François Moreau
Paris Descartes University, France
Dr. Jana Moser
Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig
Alexander Nagel, Ph."D.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington. D.#C., U.#S.
Prof."Dr. Raffaele Pisano
Lille University, France/HPS School, University of Sydney, Australia/CPNSS, LSE, United Kingdom
Assoz."Prof."Dr."Dr. Esther Ramharter
Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna
Michael Rossi, Ph."D.
Department of History, University of Chicago
Color makes its way into natural science images as early as the re-
search process. It serves for self-reﬂection and for communication
within the scientiﬁc community. However, color does not follow a
standard in the natural sciences: its meaning is contingent, even
though culturally conditioned. Digital publishing enhances the use
of color in scientiﬁc publications; at the same time, globalization
promotes the idea of universal color symbolism.
is book investigates the function of color in historical and current
visualizations for scientiﬁc purposes, its epistemic role as a tool, and
its long neglect due to symbolic and gender-speciﬁc connotations.
e publication thus helps to bridge a long standing research gap in
the natural sciences and the humanities.