Tuesday, 17 May 2022


Renowned physicist, engineer and mathematician who could elucidate our understanding of electromagnetic radiation and demonstrated that light, magnetic attraction and electric conduction were manifestations of the same phenomenon, James Clerk Maxwell, also shared an interest with most other fellow scientists at the time in optics and colour theory (see also) and presented on this day in 1861 the first durable colour photograph. Reasoning that as Sir Isaac Newton demonstrated the deconstruction of white light into its constituent parts with a prism, Maxwell proposed that a series of monochromatic images taken through red, green and blue filters and projected on a screen would be perceived by the human eye as a faithful reproduction of the colour of the original object. Despite the lack of pigmentation of any type and only subtle differences preserved as information on the refractive qualities in black-and-white, the crucial and pleasant outcome realized before a lecture before the Royal Institute with a swath of tartan ribbon photographed by Thomas Sutton—inventor of the panoramic and single reflex camera.