Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern

Houghton Harcourt. May 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781328518903. $28. SCI
When we think of color, we might be speaking of a multitude of concepts that span many scientific disciplines: the chemistry and engineering of pigments that impart color to surfaces; the physics of light of specific wavelengths or energies; or the biology of parts of the eye and brain that detects and interprets color. Rogers (Proof: The Science of Booze) explains how industrial advances in pigment-making techniques and material craftsmanship spurred greater understanding of theories of color, which in turn led to new practical applications. Beyond these physical colorants and dyes, Rogers traces the influence of color on commerce, culture, linguistics, and psychology, as people around the globe sought better ways to depict the full spectrum of color. Much of this historical invention was in the service of faithfully recreating the natural world in art, or adorning the manufactured world in nature’s colors. Color technologies of the present day allow engineers and artists, using newfound knowledge of the neurology of color perception, to expand the range of producible colors beyond what nature can offer.
VERDICT This exploration of the lengths to which humankind has gone to represent the world with fidelity, and the many scientific advances that this quest has generated, will fascinate artists, scientists, and historians alike.
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