New York he used his inventions to demonstrate ‘a
means of measuring other light in terms of daylight –
imperative for colour comparisons’.
A century later, with the help of the Munsell Color
Laboratories in Rochester, Ne w York, t wo astronomers
discovered the colour of the universe: a pinky beige.
After surveying the light from some 200,000 galaxies,
Karl Glazebrook and Ivan Baldry of Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore averaged it out at ‘cosmic
latte’. At first they had thought it was turquoise. There
was ‘no error in the science,’ as Glazebrook put it.
‘The error was in the perception.’ Cosmic latte is how
we would see the visible slice of the cosmic spectrum
from 2000 light years away (in all directions) once it
had been ‘de-red shifted’ and viewed under D65 – the
theoretical, standard illuminant that matches light
from a cloudy, midday sky in northern Europe, one
version of typical daylight.
Munsell published A Color Notation, which
contained his new colour theory, in 1905. Like a lot
of big ideas – Relativity, the Holy Trinity, Marxist
dialectics – it bundles together a handy three-pack of
interlinked concepts: hue, value and chroma, which
correspond respectively to dominant wavelength,
brightness and strength or purity of colour. They
are represented both by a three-dimensional ‘colour
atlas’ and by standardised colour chips or swatches.
Choosing chips can only be done under a standard
light source – daylight, ideally – but conversely
this also means that chips can be used to judge the
performance of a light source. In the introduction ▼
Romantic painter Philipp Otto Runge is thought to have developed his
Farben Kugel (colour sphere) in 1807. A year earlier, he had written to
Goethe saying ‘there are only three colours, yellow, red, and blue’