Complementing Purple

Photo Challenges
Basket of Colored Easter Eggs in purple shredded cellophane

Basket of Easter Eggs                                                                 f/6.3, 1/60s, ISO 450, 35mm

My selection for this week’s CFFC challenge featuring the color purple brings me to a consideration of color theory and the color wheel.  I think the complementary color of the table (yellow) makes the purples in this basket ‘pop’.

Did you know that Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th Century English physicist and mathematician, was also the inventor of the color wheel?  I didn’t.

Sure, I remember the story about an apple falling from a tree which led Newton to “discover” gravity.  I leave it to Steve Connor of the UK Independent  to detail the veracity of the anecdote.  But there’s so much more about the scientist I didn’t know.

For instance, according to biographers, Newton was born into a farming family on what was Christmas Day 1642, just three months after his father died.  His mother remarried two years later, but the young boy was sent to live with his grandparents and felt orphaned.  His early school reports described him as ‘idle’ and ‘inattentive’.   Apparently, however, a grammar school headmaster perceived his talent and encouraged him to remain in school. Eventually he entered Trinity College Cambridge, with the aim of earning a law degree.  After being introduced to philosophy and the mechanics of astronomy and optics, he later settled on the study of mathematics.

In 1665, a  terrible recurrence of Bubonic Plague spread across London, killing 15% of the population and closing the University until 1667.  Newton, just 25 years old, went home to Lincolnshire. In the next two years, his independent studies led him to extraordinary advances in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy.

It was during this period that he argued that white light is really a mixture of many different types of rays, each producing a different spectral color.  He arranged the colors in a wheel, primaries (red, yellow and blue) opposite their complementaries (green, purple and orange)–demonstrating each complementary enhances the other’s effect through optical contrast.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.                                                        – Sir Isaac Newton



2 thoughts on “Complementing Purple

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