Robert Grosseteste and the Colours

Robert Grosseteste and the Colours

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Author(s): Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

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DOI: 10.18483/ijSci.396 478 1190 1-6 Volume 3 - Jan 2014


Here we discuss the De Colore, one of the short scientific treatises written by Robert Grosseteste in the mid-1220s. In this treatise, Grosseteste continues the discussion on light and colours he started in the De Iride. The medieval scientist describes two manners of counting colours: one gives an infinity of tones, the other counts seven essential colours. In both cases, colours are created by the purity or impurity of the transparent medium when light is passing through it. This was the medieval explanation of colours that survived until Newton’s experiments with prisms.


History of Science, Medieval Science


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  2. N. Lewis, Robert Grosseteste, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Winter 2010 Edition,
  3. These six features are purity and impurity for the medium and brightness, obscurity, intensity and tenuity for light
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  5. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, translated by John Bostock, London. Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, 1855
  6. The Latin text is that given by “The Electronic Grosseteste”,, which is reporting the printed Source: Die Philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln, W. Aschendorff, 1912
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  15. 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. Opt. Image Sci. Vis., 2012, Volume 29, Issue 2, Pages A346-A352
  16. C.C. Riedl, Robert Grosseteste On light, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1942
  17. D. Allchin, Newton’s Colors, SHiPS Resource Center. Retrieved 2010-10-16
  18. David Brewster, The Life of Sir Isaac Newton, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1840

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International Journal of Sciences is Open Access Journal.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.
Author(s) retain the copyrights of this article, though, publication rights are with Alkhaer Publications.

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