A History of Light and Colour Measurement: Science in the Shadows, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A History of Light and Colour Measurement

Science in the Shadows, 1st Edition

By Sean F. Johnston

CRC Press

280 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Hardback: 9780750307543
pub: 2001-09-30
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429150098
pub: 2015-05-05
from $28.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


2003 Paul Bunge Prize of the Hans R. Jenemann Foundation for the History of Scientific Instruments

Judging the brightness and color of light has long been contentious. Alternately described as impossible and routine, it was beset by problems both technical and social. How trustworthy could such measurements be? Was the best standard of intensity a gas lamp, an incandescent bulb, or a glowing pool of molten metal? And how much did the answers depend on the background of the specialist?

A History of Light and Colour Measurement: Science in the Shadows is a history of the hidden workings of physical science-a technical endeavor embedded in a social context. It argues that this "undisciplined" subject, straddling academia, commerce, and regulation, may be typical not only of 20th century science, but of its future.

Attracting scientists, engineers, industrialists, and artists, the developing subject produced a new breed of practitioners having mixed provenance. The new measurers of light had to decide the shape not only of their specialism but of their careers: were they to be a part of physics, engineering, or psychology? The physical scientists who dominated the subject into the early 20th century made their central aim the replacement of the problematic human eye with physical detectors of light. For psychologists between the wars, though, describing the complexity of color was more important than quantifying a handful of its dimensions. And after WWII, military designers shaped the subject of radiometry and subsumed photometry and colorimetry within it. Never attaining a professional cachet, these various specialists moved fluidly between science and technology; through government, industry, and administration.


"This well-written book will be of interest to a broad audience. Historians of science will find in it a detailed account of the evolution of light measurement, and a description of the peripheral science concept and analytical tool which deserves consideration and further development. Researchers and engineers working in the field of radiometry, photometry, and color will surely find many points of interest in the history of optics will certainly enjoy a pleasant read."

-Salvador X. Bara, Optics & Photonics News, May 2003

"This is a fine book which I recommend for reading and reference. The colour pictures and optical illusions make it the sort of physics book to leave on the coffee table and dip into. The look and feel of it will not put off a nonphysicist. Tell the librarian to get at least two copies for the library so that they can put them in both the photography and the physics sections so that both groups of students can find it."

-Physics Education

"The reading of this book is easy and very pleasant. It provides not only a lot of interesting information on the various techniques for light and colour measurement used in the past, but also and mainly, clear explanations on the causes and the ways of the development and evolutions of this specific field of metrology. A very large number of persons, organisations, events which have had major influences in the history of photometry, radiometry, and colorimetry are presented … This book can be recommended not only to the specialist in the field of light and colour measurement who wishes to understand the present situation of this specific field of metrology and to foresee its evolution based on its history, but also to everybody interested in metrology in general because most of the explanations given for photometry, radiometry, and colorimetry can be applied to other fields of metrology."

-CIE NEWS, March 2002

"One of the other interesting aspects of this work is the way it traces the development of an industry from its beginnings, when gas lighting was the only serious form of man-made illumination, through to the firm establishment of electric lighting."

-The Lighting Journal

"This book is to be enjoyed, remembering that the burst of new understanding and new technology in the past fifty years has brought new vitality into photometry and colorimetry."

-LR & T

"Mr. Johnston's book helped answer questions I had on why the science of light measurement was so fragmented and why it got so little attention in scientific circles … I found it enjoyable … I was particularly impressed with the list of references and bibliography at the end of the book … the value of the references is worth the cost of the book."

-Rolf S Bergman, COLOR Research and Application

"The author has made an extensive and well-researched study of the history of this 'peripheral' but significant subject and has provided extensive footnotes and references … this is a thoroughly historical study of a neglected subject and its progress and manifold applications."

-M. Eugene Rudd, Rittenhouse: Journal of the American Scientific Instrument Enterprise, Vol. 17, No. 2, December 2003

"An enourmous amount of hard-gained information has gone into this volume."

-History of Physics Newsletter, Volume IX, No. 1

"…The book is recommended to those with an interest in the development of photometry and related fields."

-David A. Goss, ISIS, 94: 4 (2003)

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Making Light Count.

Chapter 2 Light as a law-Abiding Quantity.

Chapter 3 Seeing Things.

Chapter 4 Careers in the Shadows.

Chapter 5 Labs and Legislation.

Chapter 6 Technology in Transition.

Chapter 7 Disputing Light and Colour.

Chapter 8 Marketing Photometry.

Chapter 9 Militarising Radiometry.

Chapter 10 An Undisciplined Science.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Physics