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Roberti, Valentina (2018) Maxwell and Helmholtz and the birth ot the Theory of colour. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (italian or english)

The present research study offers an overall picture of Maxwell and Helmholtz’s fundamental contributions to the science of colour, which constitute the basis of modern colorimetry, colour photography and colour metrics.
The first main part of the dissertation, which embraces chapter 2 and chapter 3, is dedicated to a chronological account of their pivotal achievements on the subject, giving special focus on how they interpreted and elaborated over the course of the years Newton and Young’s theories of colour, which represent a fundamental starting point for both Maxwell and Helmholtz’s research in the field. Among their key contributions reported in the present work, it is worth mentioning that the two scientists clarified, for the first time and independently from one another, the distinction between additive and subtractive colour mixing, eliminating definitively Newton’s confusion between optical and pigment mixture of colours (confusion still existing in Young’s famous works and up to the solution provided by Forbes, Maxwell and Helmholtz). Moreover, they adopted Newton’s analogy of the centre of gravity to predict the outcome of optical mixture of light and eliminated the arbitrary choice of the number of primary colours. Among Maxwell and Helmholtz’s crucial experiments, deeply described and analysed in the text and from which they could obtain their colour diagrams (an equilateral triangle for Maxwell and a truncated hyperbola for Helmholtz), it is worth to cite the V-shaped slit experiment performed by Helmholtz, the famous Maxwell’s colour top, Helmholtz’s colour mixing experiment to detect directly pairs of complementary colours and Maxwell’s colour box.
From an analysis of the obtained colour diagram, Helmholtz expressed pivotal considerations on the geometry of colour space: colour space could not be uniform, i.e. equal distances did not correspond to equal perceptual difference. Helmholtz’s reflections introduce the second main part of the dissertation, composed of chapters 4 and 5, dedicated to the work undertaken by Helmholtz on the geometry of colour space, which he interpreted, such as Riemann before him, as non-Euclidian. This second part begins with a deep analysis of the studies on colour and colour perception carried out by Helmholtz’s collaborators König, Dieterici and Brodhun, working in his laboratory in Berlin. Their crucial results constitute Helmholtz’s starting point for the definition of his line element in colour space, which he elaborated following ideas borrowed from the new-born field of psychophysics. He extended the one-dimensional Weber-Fechner law of psychophysics to a complex of three dimensions, such as the colour space for subjects with normal colour vision. Helmholtz’s mathematical treatment and related considerations are contained in three papers, published between 1891 and 1892, of which a partial English translation, with related analysis, is provided. To conclude, in chapter 6 a short overview of the development of colorimetry, after Maxwell and Helmholtz’s works, can be found. The aim, far from giving a complete and detailed review of all subsequent contributions to the field up to 1971 (when the “Helmholtz Memorial Symposium on Color Metrics of the International Color Association”, AIC, took place), is to highlight the pivotal role played by Helmholtz and Maxwell’s studies in the development of colour science, as well as to illustrate some problems which have remained unsolved until the present time.

Abstract (a different language)

Dall’antichità ad oggi il colore ha sempre costituito oggetto di studi e approfondimenti, i quali, oltre ad apportare significativi contributi al progresso della conoscenza scientifica sul tema, hanno originato interessanti applicazioni pratiche in vari ambiti disciplinari.
La moderna scienza del colore viene inaugurata da James Clerk Maxwell e Hermann von Helmholtz intorno alla metà dell’Ottocento. Obiettivo del presente lavoro è inserire i meno noti contributi di Maxwell e di Helmholtz alla scienza del colore in un quadro generale completo, assente al giorno d’oggi, ponendo un accento particolare sull’influenza esercitata dai lavori di Newton e di Young sullo sviluppo delle loro teorie. Entrambi gli scienziati, infatti, seppur con accenti diversi, interpretano la loro opera come una continuazione e un completamento delle teorie del colore e della visione di Newton e di Young, le cui idee verranno in parte riprese ed elaborate e in parte abbandonate.
Il lavoro è organizzato in due sezioni principali. La prima, che si articola nei capitoli 2 e 3, illustra le tre fondamentali svolte avvenute tra il Seicento e l’Ottocento dalle quali prenderanno avvio le ricerche dei due scienziati e, a seguire, i cruciali contributi di Maxwell ed Helmholtz alla teoria del colore, esposti, per quanto possibile, secondo una scansione cronologica. In questa prima parte vengono descritti in dettaglio gli esperimenti condotti dai due scienziati sul mescolamento dei colori, come la “trottola dei colori” e la “scatola dei colori” di Maxwell e l’esperimento di Helmholtz atto a individuare coppie di colori complementari. Verranno poi presentati i diagrammi del colore proposti da Maxwell e da Helmholtz, che assumono rispettivamente la forma di triangolo equilatero e di iperbole troncata.
Da una analisi approfondita del diagramma del colore ottenuto mediante i suoi esperimenti sul mescolamento delle luci, Helmholtz esprime considerazioni cruciali sulla geometria dello spazio del colore. Riconoscendo una asimmetria in tale spazio, Helmholtz, come Riemann prima di lui, si spinge a interpretarne la geometria in termini non euclidei: lo spazio del colore, infatti, non è uniforme, ovvero in esso uguali distanze non corrispondono a uguali differenze percepite. Tali riflessioni introducono la seconda parte dello studio (capitoli 4 e 5) dedicata alla produzione scientifica di Helmholtz e dei suoi collaboratori e assistenti, König, Dieterici e Brodhun, presso il Physikalische Institut di Berlino relativa alla geometria dello spazio del colore, di cui solamente poche opere sono state tradotte in inglese. Tra queste sono assenti gli articoli specificamente dedicati alla definizione del primo elemento di linea nello spazio del colore, pubblicati tra il 1891 e il 1892. Il presente lavoro contiene una analisi e traduzione parziale in inglese dei tre lavori di Helmholtz, accompagnata da uno studio dei contributi dei suoi assistenti, i quali, inter alia, forniscono a Helmholtz materiale prezioso per lo sviluppo del suo modello di elemento di linea, elaborato a partire dalla legge psicofisica di Weber-Fechner. Infine, l’ultimo capitolo è dedicato a una breve panoramica sugli sviluppi della teoria del colore successivi ai fondamentali contributi di Helmholtz e Maxwell fino al 1971, anno in cui si tiene il simposio intitolato Helmholtz Memorial Symposium on Color Metrics organizzato dalla Associazione Internazionale del Colore (International Color Association) avente come oggetto di dibattito proprio la metrica del colore, di cui Hermann von Helmholtz rappresenta il fondatore indiscusso.
Da questo studio emerge chiaramente l’interdisciplinarità della ricerca svolta: lo studio del colore coinvolge, infatti, vari ambiti disciplinari, quali la fisica, la matematica, la psicofisica, in linea con l’idea condivisa da Helmholtz e da Maxwell che il progresso della conoscenza avvenga spesso grazie alla fertilizzazione incrociata di settori diversi del sapere.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Peruzzi, Giulio
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 31 > Corsi 31 > FISICA
Data di deposito della tesi:21 November 2018
Anno di Pubblicazione:01 October 2018
Key Words:Storia della Fisica, Teoria del colore, Hermann von Helmholtz, James Clerk Maxwell/History of Science and Technology, Theory of colour, Hermann von Helmholtz, James Clerk Maxwell
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 02 - Scienze fisiche > FIS/08 Didattica e storia della fisica
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia "Galileo Galilei"
Codice ID:11328
Depositato il:14 Nov 2019 13:36
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