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COLOR BLINDNESS IN ELEVEN THOUSAND MUSEUM VISITORS*

By W. R. Miles

Abstract

The world of color presents no more surprising phenomenon than that of color-blindness which is ever playing a mysterious backstage role in human experience. An example of its more serious pranks is the following historic incident. Maximilian Hell of Vienna was the one astronomer to observe the transit of Venus in 1769 from the most favorable station on the globe, a position at the northern extremity of Norway. The publication of his report was eagerly awaited by astronomers generally and when the delay seemed long whisperings got about that cloudy weather had interfered with the observations and that Father Hell was "doctoring" them in Copenhagen. After his publication appeared some mistrust of the author unfortunately still remained in circulation. About 1833, Director Littrow of the Vienna Observatory found Father Hell's original journal on deposit at the Austrian National Observatory and examined it most critically. It appeared to Littrow that notes in the journal, including the figures which recorded the critical moment of "contact, " showed erasures and the insertion of other words and figures. Littrow published his criticisms in a small book and then the doubts concerning the genuineness of Hell's work seemed well substantiated. However, Simon Newcomb, in 1883, examined side by side Littrow's little book and Hell's journal and found disagreements between them which were most puzzling to reconcile. Finally, it occurred to Newcomb that Littrow's apparent misjudgments of the tints of ink in the manuscript could have resulted from his being color-blind. Investigation indicated the probable correctness of this hypothesis, for it was found that Littrow was known to have a defect of color sense for red. "He could not distinguish between the color of Aldebaran and that of the whitest star." ' 6 Color is such an important element in military operations, in science, industry, and commerce, and in society generally that every person should have some objective self-knowledge of the characteristics of his own color sense. The use of pseudo-isochromatic test

Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.358.9642
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