In his 1860 paper On the theory of compound colours, James Clerk Maxwell described an instrument used to obtain a direct comparison between daylight and a mixture of three selected spectral colors. This investigation was part of Maxwell's study of human color vision, color perception, and color representation, and it encompasses his main achievements in the field. The working principle underlying this device provided the basis from which color diagrams have been derived, beginning with the standard chromaticity diagram proposed by the International Commission on Illumination in 1931. We describe a reconstruction of Maxwell's original version of the color box. Constructing and analyzing data obtained with such a replica could serve as a semester project for advanced optics students.
Maxwell's color box: Retracing the path of color matching experiments
Valentina Roberti, Boris Kalinic, Tiziana Cesca, Luca Bacci, Giulio Peruzzi; Maxwell's color box: Retracing the path of color matching experiments. Am. J. Phys. 1 October 2022; 90 (10): 787–794. https://doi.org/10.1119/5.0087786
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