Color-coordinate system from a 13th century account of rainbows

Hannah E. Smithson, Philip S. Anderson, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Robert A. E. Fosbury, Giles E. M. Gasper, Philip Laven, Tom C. B. McLeish, Cecilia Panti, Brian K. Tanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We present a new analysis of Robert Grosseteste’s account of color in his treatise De iride (On the Rainbow), dating from the early 13th century. The work explores color within the 3D framework set out in Grosseteste’s De colore [see J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 29, A346 (2012)], but now links the axes of variation to observable properties of rainbows.
We combine a modern understanding of the physics of rainbows and of human color perception to resolve the linguistic ambiguities of the medieval text and to interpret Grosseteste’s key terms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)A341-A349
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America. A, Optics Image Science and Vision
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2014


  • Color
  • Color vision
  • Colorimetry
  • Atmospheric optics


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